Where in Hell is Hell?


Last post, we looked at the ancient Greek picture of Hades, the abode of the dead. We compared it with the Biblical picture which was both similar and very different.

The Old Testament used the word Sheol for the abode of the dead, and it was a place where the dead “shades” went to wait for judgment. But it wasn’t a place of fire and torture like many people think of today.

Now, let’s look at what the New Testament adds to the picture.

Because the New Testament is in Greek, it does not use the word Sheol, but the Greek word, Hades. Jesus himself used the term Hades as the location of condemned spirits in contrast with heaven as the location of redeemed spirits (Matt. 11:23). Jesus referred to the “Gates of Hades” (Matt. 16:18), a well-known underworld concept in ancient Near Eastern and Western Greco-Roman mythology.

This was more than a metaphorical reference to the “power of death,” because the sacred grotto in Caesarea Philippi, where he spoke those words, was considered a gateway to Hades.[1] The location had a cave with a deep chasm believed to lead to the Abyss and Hades.[2] In the book of Revelation, Jesus claims to capture the “keys of Death and Hades,” which is a doublet separating the two words rather than identifying them (Rev. 1:18).

Hades was the location of departed spirits in Christ’s parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Hades (Luke 16:19-31). It was from this parable that the term “Abraham’s Bosom” came, that indicated the separated location of righteous souls in Hades from the eternally thirsty wicked by a large chasm. This parable has been convincingly proven by some scholars to be a subversive polemic against the common motif of Hellenistic pagan journeys to the underworld and communication from the dead, not a literal geography of Hades.[3] But if it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for Jesus Triumphant in its imaginative depiction of Hades.

In Greek mythology, Tartarus was another term for a location beneath the “roots of the earth” and beneath the waters where the warring giants called “Titans” were bound in chains because of their rebellion against the gods. Peter uses a derivative of that very Greek word Tartarus to describe a similar location and scenario of angels being bound during the time of Noah and the warring Titans called “Nephilim.”[4]

2Pet. 2:4-5
God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell [Tartarus] and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.








From Sheol to Gehenna

Despite this claim of a realm for the dead in both the Old and New Testaments, there is very little specificity of description of its attributes beyond “darkness” (Job 17:13; Lam. 3:6) and “silence” (Psa. 31:17–18; 94:17; 115:17). The one clear certainty about Sheol/Hades is that “he who goes down to Sheol does not come up” (Job 7:9; 10:21; 2Sam. 12:23). As Papaioannou describes:

“First, Sheol/Hades is where everyone goes at death. There is no distinction between the righteous and the wicked… Second, Sheol/Hades is not a place of eschatological punishment, but rather the destiny of all human beings… Third, there is no life or consciousness in Sheol/Hades. In contrast to some cultures that envisioned meaningful existence in the afterlife, the Hebrew Bible portrays Sheol as a place of silence and lifelessness where human existence has come to an end… There is no memory in Hades (Isa 26:14); neither is there any longer a communion with God (Isa 38:18). It is a place of silence, darkness, and oblivion (Job 17:13). Thus, a person who dies in effect ceases to exist (Eccl. 9:6)… With a belief in a bodily resurrection, Sheol/Hades is only a temporary abode—the dead remain there until they are raised.”[5]

Richard Bauckham explains the change in understanding that occurred between the Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures regarding the abode of the dead. He points out that the older view did not involve active punishment of souls in Sheol, but merely involved holding the wicked in detention until the last judgment. The newer view, driven by apocalyptic literature included descents to the underworld, where increasingly only the wicked were located:

“The older view allowed for visits to the place of detention in Sheol (1En. 22), visits to the hell which is already prepared for but not yet inhabited by the wicked (lEn. 26:3-27:4; 2En. 10; 40:12; 2Bar. 59:10),  and prophetic visions of the casting of the wicked into Gehenna at the last judgment (1En. 41:2; Bar 59: 11). But only the later view enabled a seer to see and to describe in detail the punishments actually being inflicted on the wicked in hell. The later view therefore spawned a long tradition of ‘tours of hell,’ in which a variety of different punishments appropriate to different categories of sinners is described.”[6]

By the time of the New Testament, some Second Temple Jewish literature began to increasingly evidence the notion of punishment for the wicked and reward for the righteous in Hades before the final judgment.

Bauckham suggests this new notion of immediate recompense upon death in both Jewish and Christian writings may have been the result of Greek influence,”[7] but the fact remains that after the advent of Christ and his spiritual mission, the change took place with the growth of Christianity.

In this sense, Christ’s descent into Hades, and his victorious triumph over spiritual principalities and the powers of Death and Hades marked the inauguration of God’s kingdom that may have included the beginning of rewards and punishment in Sheol/Hades.

The Greek word for “hell” used in New Testament translation is Gehenna. Some have believed that this was the name of a garbage dump outside Jerusalem that burned with perpetual flames, and Jesus used it as a metaphor for the fires of judgment. But recent scholarship tends to disregard this thesis as lacking both exegetical weight and hard archeological evidence.[8]

In fact, Gehenna is Greek for “Valley of Hinnom,” the valley that bordered the south and western sides of Jerusalem.[9] This valley had a dark history in Israel’s past as the location of tophets, or burning places for sacrifice to Molech, the underworld god. Israelites would “pass their children through the fire” as human sacrifice. God became so angry with this abomination that the prophet Jeremiah pronounced a fiery curse on the area destroyed by King Josiah around 632 B.C. (Jer. 7:29–34; 19:1–15). It would become known as the “Valley of Slaughter,” and a synonym for future judgment/destruction of people and nations in this life as well as the next.

Both Second Temple literature and Jesus’ teachings used Gehenna as a reference to the future final judgment (Matt. 13:42, 30; 25:41).[10] So, yes it was a metaphor for fiery punishment, but a far richer meaning than a burning garbage dump. It provided incarnate location for the belief in the eschatological judgment of God upon evil.

For additional Biblical and historical research related to this novel, go to www.ChroniclesoftheNephilim.com under the menu listing, “Links” > Jesus Triumphant.

[1] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm (Bellingham: WA, Lexham, 2005), 267-271; Jimmy R. Watson, The Religious History of Banias and Its Contribution to an Understanding of the Petrine Confession (Hardin-Simmons University, Master’s Thesis, 1989). 87; George W. E. Nicklesburg, “Enoch, Levi, and Peter: Recipients of Revelation in Upper Galilee,” Journal of Biblical Literature 100 (December 1981): 598.
[2] Wars of the Jews 1:405, Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987).
[3] Kim Papaioannou, The Geography of Hell in the Teaching of Jesus: Gehenna, Hades, the Abyss, the Outer Darkness Where There Is Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2013), 112. Richard Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead: Studies on the Jewish and Christian Apocalypses, (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1998), 101.
[4] 1.25 ταρταρόω [tartaroo] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament : Based on Semantic Domains. electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. New York: United Bible societies, 1996. Bauckham, Richard J. Vol. 50, Word Biblical Commentary : 2 Peter, Jude. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002, p 248-249.
[5] Papaioannou, The Geography of Hell, 87-88.
[6] Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead, 34.
[7] Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead, 36.
[8] Papaioannou, The Geography of Hell, 80.
[9] Duane F. Watson, “Gehenna (Place),” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 926.
[10] See 1 En. 10:13; 48:8–10; 100:7–9; 108:4–7; Jdt 16:17; 2 Bar. 85:13.

Monster: Very Cool Music Video about Bullying



This is a music video that I support because it uses the metaphor of monsters in our head like zombies that haunt us to do wrong. Very cool song. I wrote about this band in an earlier post here.

The band’s name is Gavlak.

They only have 3 days left to raise the money for this PSA-style video that will encourage young people not to bully, not to listen to the negative voices in their soul.

Check out the Kickstarter video here.

What in Hell is Hades?


Last post on this topic, we looked at 1 Peter 3:18-22 only to discover it is all about Jesus Christ going down into Hades to proclaim his victory of triumph over the spirits of the Watchers imprisoned in Tartarus of Hades.

But isn’t Hades just a synonym for being dead? Oh, it’s Biblically so much more than that. Let’s take a few posts to explore this Abode of the Dead from a Scriptural perspective.

When reading the word, Hades or Underworld, most educated readers immediately conjure images of Greco-Roman myth taught in school: A misty and gloomy abode of the dead below the earth where all souls of mortals, both good and evil, went after death. It is ruled over by the god of the same name, Hades, and contains perilous landscapes and dangerous bizarre creatures. Though there is not perfect consistency of geography among the various Greek and Roman authors, some elements repeat.[1]

There are five rivers in the classical Hades. Styx is the most prominent one that circles the underworld. The second one, Acheron, is the one crossed by souls on a boat ferried by the ghostly boatman Charon to bring them to the gates of Hades. Each of the rivers represent what happens to the departed souls.

1) Styx: River of hatred.
2) Acheron: River of pain.
3) Lethe: River of forgetfulness.
4) Phlegethon: River of fire.
5) Cocytus: River of wailing.

The entrance to the underworld is guarded by the three-headed dog Cerberus and other chimeric creatures like centaurs. The rivers then divide the geography into multiple regions with different purposes.

1) Fields of Punishment: Where souls who committed sins against the gods are punished.
2) Fields of Asphodel: Where souls go who were insignificant, neither great nor wicked.
3) Vale of Mourning: Where souls go who were unloved.
4) Elysium: Where the spirits of heroes and the virtuous ended up.
5) Isles of the Blessed: For the most distinguished of souls for eternity.
6) Tartarus: The deepest pit of Hades where the rebel Titans were bound.

Most modern western pictures of the afterlife, or realm of the dead, come from the medieval punishments of Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost. Levels of torture for sinners meted out by angels or demons, with Lucifer reigning over hell as a more interesting character than God. Sadly, these unbiblical notions have influenced Christian theology in some ways more than the Scriptural text itself. They make for colorful stories, but are not true to Biblical theology.

What does the Bible itself say about the underworld? The Old Testament Hebrew equivalent to the Greek Hades was Sheol.[2] Sheol could be a metaphorical personification of death (Hos 13:14; Isa. 28:15; 38:18, Ps. 49:15) or the grave (Psa. 88:11; Isa. 14:9-11), but it could also refer to an actual conceived location beneath the earth that was the abode of the dead (Isa 14:9-15). The spirit of Samuel was called up from Sheol (1Sam. 28:13), and the sons of Korah went down alive into this underworld (Num. 16:33). People would not “fall alive” into death or the grave and then perish if Sheol was not a location to the ancient Hebrew mind.

When the prophet writes about Sheol in Isaiah 14, he combines the notion of the physical location of the dead body in the earth (v.11) with the location beneath the earth of the spirits of the dead (v.9). It’s really a both/and synthesis. The term includes several concepts of imagination.

Here are some verses that speak of Sheol geographically as a spiritual underworld below the earth in contrast with heaven as a spiritual overworld above the earth:

Amos 9:2
“If they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; if they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down.
Job 11:8
It is higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?
Psa. 139:8
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there![3]
These are not mere references to the body in the grave, but to locations of the soul as well. Sheol is a multi-layered term that describes both the grave for the body and the underworld location of the departed souls of the dead.[4]

In Old Testament times, Sheol did not include any kind of punishment beyond its power to hold souls captive to death (Psa. 18:4-5), separated in some sense from God’s presence (Psa. 115:17; 6:5), and one’s misery of lost power and glory (Psa. 7:5; Isa. 14:9-16). But fire and bodily torture are absent from this Old Testament worldview.


One biblical term used for departed souls in Sheol is rephaim. It is sometimes translated as “shades,” in English. As the ISBE puts it, “In Job 26:5 “the shades below” are the dead (cf. Ps. 88:10; Isa. 26:14). They dwell in “the depths of Sheol” (Prov. 9:18), where they live together in “the assembly of the dead” (Prov. 21:16).”[5]

Ad300x250-Gen2RevThat assembly is described in 1Enoch as “four hollows” or pits under the mountain of the dead, where they await their judgment in the last days. Though 1Enoch is not Scripture, it is a book highly regarded in the New Testament (read this article for the details), so it gives one picture of how the ancient Jews saw Sheol/Hades. One hollow is for the righteous; another hollow is for Abel and those unjustly murdered; a third is for the wicked unpunished in life; and a fourth for the wicked who were punished in life. The souls of the unrighteous dead thirst and are frightful of their future judgment (1En. 22:9), but they are not tortured by angels or demons. Righteous souls receive refreshment from a fountain of waters “with light upon them” (1En. 22:9; Luke 16:24).

Another Jewish text of the first century, 4Ezra, describes the departed soul’s entrance into Sheol as consisting of seven days to see the future results of their ways before being led to their habitation to wait for judgment. During this time period, the unrighteous…

4Ezra 7:80, 87, 101
…shall immediately wander about in torments, ever grieving and sad…they shall utterly waste away in confusion and be consumed with shame, and shall wither with fear at seeing the glory of the Most High before whom they sinned while they were alive, and before whom they are to be judged in the last times… and afterward they shall be gathered in their habitations.

Another ancient Christian text, The Apocalypse of Zephaniah, describes the angels who draw the shades to their destiny as beings whose “faces were like a leopard, their tusks being outside their mouth like the wild boars. Their eyes were mixed with blood. Their hair was loose like the hair of women, and fiery scourges were in their hands.”[6]

This ancient legendary depiction is behind the confused, wandering zombie-like shades in Jesus Triumphant who are animated by maggots and worms (Isa. 14:11; 66:24) while wailing and gnashing their teeth (Matt. 25:30), before being brought to the Mountain of the Dead by the long-haired gatherers. It’s all there in Jesus Triumphant.

In Isaiah 14, a prophetic rant against the arrogant king of Babylon, the “shades” take on an additional meaning…

Isaiah 14:9-11
Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come;
it rouses the shades (rephaim) to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of the nations. All of them will answer and say to you: ‘You too have become as weak as we! You have become like us!’ Your pomp is brought down to Sheol.
The Hebrew word for “shades” here is rephaim, a word with ties to the Canaanite giants of Joshua’s and David’s time (Josh. 13:12; 2Sam. 22:15-22), and mighty warrior kings of Canaanite literature also called rephaim.[7] Isaiah’s intent is to mock the pomp and vainglory of man, who will end up as humiliated as every other mighty being imprisoned in Sheol.[8] Thus, the appearance of the Rephaim guardians in Jesus Triumphant.

In the next post we’ll address the New Testament notion of the underworld along with Gehenna and Hell.

You can buy Jesus Triumphant in Kindle, Paperback or audiobook here at Amazon.

For additional Biblical and historical research related to this novel, go to www.ChroniclesoftheNephilim.com under the menu listing, “Links” > Jesus Triumphant.

[1] For a brief introduction to Hades, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_underworld
[2] “Sheol,” DDD, p 768.
[3] See also Isa. 7:11; Matt. 11:23; Phil 2:10; Rev. 5:3, 13; 1Pet 2:4-5.
[4] “The ideas of the grave and of Sheol cannot be separated…The dead are at the same time in the grave and in Sheol…Where there is grave, there is Sheol, and where there is Sheol, there is grave.” Theodore J. Lewis, “Dead, Abode of the,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 103.
[5] P. K. McCarter Jr., “Shades,” ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 440.
[6] James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1 (New York;  London: Yale University Press, 1983), 511.
[7] Mark S. Smith, “Rephaim,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 674-75.
[8] Philip S. Johnston, Shades of Sheol: Death and Afterlife in the Old Testament, (Downers Grove: IL, InterVarsity, 2002), 128-130.

The Young Messiah: Must See Bible Movie About Jesus. No Hollywood Bizarro World This Time.



Biopic of Jesus as a child becoming aware of his identity as the Son of God.

I saw an early screening of The Young Messiah that is set to release in March.
Written by Betsy and Cyrus Nowrasteh, and directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh.

I’m the guy who wrote the critique of the Noah script by Aronofsky that went viral and exposed its anti-Biblical agenda. I’m not a fundamentalist, but I represent and understand a significant huge proportion of the contemporary Christian viewing public who are totally okay with creative license when it comes to Bible movies, AS LONG AS YOU DON’T SUBVERT THE ORIGINAL MESSAGE. That’s what Noah did, and that’s what Exodus did. They subverted the Biblical narrative with their own paganism and atheism. And that is why they failed in terms of audience potential (along with just being plainly bad movies). Biblical fidelity is not about petty details, but about the meaning.

Biblically Faithful

I am here to say that the new film coming out in March, The Young Messiah, is NOT one of those films. The Young Messiah is a great movie, well told, and very faithful to the spirit of the Gospel of what it may have been like for the young seven-year old Jesus to come of age as the Son of God. I highly recommend it for all Christians. It’s warm, touching and a beautiful portrayal of the chosen family struggling through extraordinary times and extraordinary difficulties with an extraordinary child. There is humor with a lovable yet rascally uncle Cleopas, and brilliant villainy with a skanky Herod Antipas, as well as a blond beautiful Robert Downey Jr.-like Satan.

It’s always tough to depict Satan. Gibson’s androgynous female with mutant baby was brilliant, but this one is great for a different reason. The New Testament describes Satan as a deceptive angel of light, so making him beautiful creates an eerie irony as he seeks to figure out what the plan of the young Messiah is, since the New Testament says the principalities and powers didn’t really know what the plan was, otherwise they wouldn’t have crucified him (1Corinthians 2:8).

And the story adds a dramatic stakes of life and death with a Roman centurion played by Sean Bean hunting down the elusive child on orders from Herod Antipas to kill him (because of the failure of his father to do so at the Slaughter of Innocents in Bethlehem years earlier). This was a brilliant addition to the story that was not in the novel, but makes the story more exciting as a movie. (Of course, it’s hard to make the danger seem real cause we know that he won’t ultimately kill Jesus, but the drama and suspense are still entertaining, as is the centurion’s own spiritual journey, since he had participated in the original Slaughter of Innocents)

Not Sectarian

It is adapted from Anne Rice’s Catholic novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, but it does not take a Catholic or Protestant view. It seeks to depict that story within its original ancient Near Eastern Jewish context rather than from a sectarian perspective. Even the title change represents that focus with its more Jewish title of “Messiah” over the Greek “Christ.” Both Catholics and Protestants will love the beautiful and strong, yet devout and submissive Mary in this movie as “blessed among women,” who “rejoices in God, her Savior.” And while there are obviously some fictional miracle scenes, they are entirely within the parameters of possibility and don’t contradict Scripture. This is doctrinally safe imagination.

Son of God, Son of Man

Admittedly, it is a controversial and difficult story to tell because of the delicate theological issue of balancing Christ’s divinity with his humanity. After all, the Gospels do reveal that Jesus was NOT omniscient. That he had to grow in knowledge and wisdom (Luke 2:52), and that means he had to learn. Heck, it even says he also “increased in favor with God.”

Now the problem is that Christians have so emphasized Christ’s divinity, that we have sometimes neglected to balance that truth with his equally fully human identity. We therefore start to think of Jesus as some kind of Greek god waiting to grow up so he can reveal what he’s known all along. But that simply isn’t the truth. The only story of young Jesus in the Gospels is the one where he is left behind at the Temple at age twelve and when his parents go back to get him, he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). So, he understood his relationship to God the Father with some degree at age twelve. But beyond that, we simply don’t know. And if he wasn’t omniscient, as the Scriptures say he wasn’t, then there had to be a kind of realization that took place in his life in earlier years.

So what would it have looked like for Jesus’ identity to dawn upon him? What would life with the Son of God as a child look like? Again, an admittedly controversial topic to take up, but I think the movie does a great job of maintaining Christ’s divine identity while exploring the dilemma of his humanity in relation to that hypostatic union.

Here is a great article by N.T. Wright about Jesus’ Self Understanding that gives orthodox scholarly weight to that consideration.

This is not the sinful humanity of The Last Temptation of Christ, or the gnostic otherworldliness of Jesus of Nazareth. This is a young child becoming aware that his miraculous power comes from his identity as the god-man. One of my favorite moments is a beautiful monologue of the boy Jesus explaining his new understanding of himself as Messiah in the flesh. He needs to experience all the joys, the pains, the happiness and sadness, of being human from birth to death. Why? So that we would have a redeemer who would know what it was like to be one of us. The Incarnation (Hebrews 4:15).

The Young Messiah navigates this delicate theological issue with a faithful and reverent dexterity.

No Hollywood Insanity

I think partly the reason for this Biblical fidelity is because it is independently produced outside the studio system. A major distributor, Focus Features, was wise enough to pick it up for distribution, but studio producer Chris Columbus had to get independent funding to make it. The reality is that Cyrus and Betsy are independent filmmakers who also made the brilliant and courageous, Stoning of Soroya M. (about the evils of sharia law). It takes the ability of free thinking independents to bravely portray faithful Judeo-Christianity.

I happen to know the Nowrastehs, but I told Cyrus I would not be a shill for them in my blog post, especially when it comes to my Lord Jesus Christ. I will speak honestly and freely. And so I have. Unlike certain other Christians paid in silver by the studios to trick the Body of Christ to support the abominations of Noah and Exodus. And also, unlike Noah, the original script for The Young Messiah changed quite a bit from script to screen…

The Power of the Gospel Story

Here is the most amazing part of the story to me. The director explained in a Q and A that though his wife and co-writer was already a Christian believer when they began the project, he was not. And making the movie The Young Messiah, was the culmination of a long spiritual journey that resulted in him becoming a Christian and being baptized. Even more fascinating, he had been raised in a Muslim household, but spent most of his adult life with a more secular worldview. That shows how exploring the story of the genuine Biblical Jesus transforms a person’s life.

Go see this movie on its opening weekend and let it transform yours. Remember, you must go on the opening weekend to help the movie stay in the theaters and have real impact. And of course, social media rules, so share, share, share!


One side note of amusement. Because the writer/director is Persian, Hollywood Christophobes and Left Wing Identity Police are going to have a difficult time accusing him of racism for not casting every single actor from the Middle East like they accused Ridley Scott on Exodus. Gotcha, haters!

Dead Reckoning TV Interviews Godawa on Jesus Triumphant and Demons


I have great respect for these guys. They are funny, smart and creative.

They do some comedy skits about current issues with sharp wit.
And I LOVE Jay’s News Bulletin in Haiku. Brilliant and Funny.

And one of the best interviews on my series Chronicles of the Nephilim and the new novel, Jesus Triumphant. We talk about the Cosmic War of the Seed, the Watchers, and how the gods of the nations are real beings who battle the messianic bloodline ending in Jesus, who then disinherits those gods and takes back the earth. Jesus demon exorcism was not a mere display of power over spirits, it was a very specific action that is related to the Nephilim of Genesis 6. Listen and you’ll see why. We talked a little about self publishing novels as well.

Watch them online here.


Gavlak: Poetic Punk Rock Band with Heart, Soul & Mind – & Plenty of Screaming.

Wild at the California Institute of Abnormalarts

Wild punk band Gavlak at the California Institute of Abnormalarts

I saw GAVLAK recently at the California Institute of Abnormalarts, a fascinating venue that feels like a museum of creepy dark mortality. A huge stone sculpture of a skull looks down upon the outer courtyard that wraps around the building for mingling amidst bizarre artifacts like mummified human remains and Carnivale-like statues and paintings. It’s a refreshing truthful change of pace from the delusionary world of immortal youth in LA.

Which is why it was the perfect place to see the EP Release of the punk rock band, Gavlak, a gritty, gutsy performance with Michael Lee bellowing beautifully on lead vocals, Ben Stelle plucking away clearly on bass (and cowriter of the music with Lee), Steve Watson playing a mean guitar, John Steward banging away gloriously on drums (He plays for Fishbone, and was helping them out). The drummer on the EP album is Fredo Ortiz, a previous Beastie Boys drummer, who was on tour with Gogol Bordello at the time of this show.

Full disclosure, Michael Lee is my friend. But also full disclosure, I don’t like loud banging music and I especially do not like live performances, I am a studio music lover. AND I have no problem telling Michael if I don’t like his stuff. We critique each other’s art all the time. But in this case, I truly enjoyed the experience. Yes, I wore ear plugs to stave off deafness, and yes, I was too damned tired to hang around after the gig, since I want my sleep and late hours for rock and roll are not a mid-life crisis of temptation for this boy.

But the performance was really quite amazing. These guys were real pros. The playing was tight, and Lee’s performance as the lead vocalist was truly entertaining. The guy knows how to scream with passion, move with the music and interact with the crowd. And he really does have a great voice for this stuff, and he has the persona of a star up there, which of course makes his wife and me laugh and shake our heads with amusement, since we know he’s just dust.

And that’s the point of the band that makes it transcend your typical punk rock band. Their music feels the pain of existence with a true honesty, but hints at redemption, unlike the nihilism of so many other punks. The lyrics are poetic and gutsy, and there is melody that keeps you humming the tunes. No clashing dissonance of absurdity here. This music is more the ancient text of Ecclesiastes set to catchy music. Wisdom wrapped in suffering.

Their cover songs were truly fun and memorable. Sedated (Ramones), All Day and All of the Night (Kinks), Paint It Black (Rolling Stones), Seven Nation Army (White Stripes). But my personal favorite was Come Together (The Beatles). What can I say, Beatles Bias.

But to be honest, their original material was easily of equal calibre.

And since I have the recorded EP, I will comment more on that because the lyrics are clearer, the music sharper and tighter to my studio loving ears.

1. In the Pain. This is the one I can’t get out of my head. My personal favorite. Singing Gavlak’s crooning coolness as I drive in my car. But it’s also the one I most relate to. It’s a gutsy lament of how we try to hide our internal suffering, yet that is precisely the thing that may wake us up to our true need and hope. It is within that pain that we can actually meet our Maker. “In my pain. I feel you.” Like I said, baby, a musical Ecclesiastes. Damn. This is my friend. But he’s actually got a great voice that I like to listen to along with my few other hard rock songs (I’m an old timer: Zeppelin, Queen, Aerosmith) In fact, in some ways this music reminds of that spirit.

2. Nothing I can do. A song about free will, and how we can’t make someone see what they don’t want to see or understand. It’s really a ballad-like lament of resignation to our inevitable finite humility. Simple, yet profound.

3. Bag O’ Tricks. This one is my favorite for lyrics because it really addresses the futility of the atheist worldview of materialism. It’s philosophical, clever and passionately pure, all in one. The atheist worldview reduces the human experience to meaninglessness, which is self-evidentially absurd to the soul that longs for transcendence.

You’re a skin sack full of bones.
You’re a meat rack on a stick,
a bucket full of oozing sludge,
a biochemical bag of tricks.
You’ve never really made a choice
and you’ve never really had a thought.
That’s not how the whole thing works.
Isn’t that what you’ve been taught?

But he doesn’t leave us wallowing in such insane irrationality. He screams his hint toward redemption as loud as his mockery of godlessness.

You think you know who you are?
I tell you, you better think again.
Not a waste of time and space.
You’ve got something within.

4. Monster. The music begins with an eerie impending doom, as he sings of the “monster in your head,” a revelation of the original sin of human nature. Man is basically bad, not basically good, as delusional humanism keeps repeating to its hollow-souled adherents. It’s only by facing our own depravity that we can begin to find our way out of the bondage to that creature of the dark residing in all our souls.

The things you say and all the things you do
they come from somewhere, somewhere deep inside of you.
What’s hidden there is a fright to see.
It’s just your monster. It looks just like you and me.

5. My Demon. This song is just cool. It’s a catchy riff about being haunted by the demon of our own choices that lead to the consequences of our suffering. We face our comeuppance if we fail to conquer that demon. Because it is coming for us…

Lunatic ahead is aiming straight for me.
Where did he escape? Am I the same as he?
See my demon seething in his cold pale skin.
Eyes of darkness gaze from sorrow deep within.

There is “only one that can make us whole.”

6. Deluded. This is another song of resignation and regret reminiscent of “Nothing I Can Do.” But in this case, it sounds like a deeply personal experience that the writer is somewhat haunted by, trying to sing his justification to cleanse himself. The guttural painful screaming of “I did not backstab you!” carries this home.

The Gavlak EP has strong catchy music, vocals full of passion and character, and a powerful combination of gritty gutsy honesty wrapped in a poetic redemptive hope.

You can hear some of their songs and buy them here at ReverbNation. (At this point, there is Bag O’ Tricks and Deluded. I assume there will be more available eventually.

Their Facebook Page is here. Like it and find out when they will have their songs available for purchase.

AND FINALLY, they are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a music video they are making of “Monster.” Go here to pledge.

I just did.

The Glory of Story: Genesis 1 and the Art of Storytelling


I am posting this playlist of clips from my friend, Jim Womer’s class on The Glory of Story. It was a powerful influence on my understanding of story from the Bible.

Watch the complete playlist of all segments on YouTube here.

These are edited segments of a 2.5 hour lecture

To buy the full 2.5 hour lecture, The Glory of Story:
(includes movie film clips not shown on YouTube version)

Discover the hidden treasures within the biblical “creation model” found in the book of Genesis. Decode the”seven days of creation” as an organic template for story structure.

• You will learn how to organically generate dimensional back stories and characters from a simple logline.
• Identify and address story problems in any stage of the writing process from outline to finished draft.
• Identify characters that are out of balance with the story, why they are out of balance, and what must be done to realign them or omit them.
• Identify the true motivations behind any character’s dialogue and actions.

Introduction: The WHY vs. the WHAT of story
Act One: Born Identity vs. False Identity and Hero’s Departure
Act Two A: Hero’s Descent, Plan A, Point of No Return, and Bonding
Act Two B: Hero’s Eclipse and Ascent
Act Three: Abyss, Gauntlet, Hidden Truth, Deliverance, and Return

“I heartily recommend this series on storytelling structure based on Genesis One. I use it myself. If you buy it in combination with my “Screenwriting for Christians,” you will have an unbeatable combination to help you write stories with an incarnate Christian worldview.”
— Brian Godawa