Sunday, April 01, 2007

hellboy

I wish I could have spent some time talking about life after judgment. Particularly hell.

Except I think the problem with many of us pastors talking about hell is that our hearts aren’t sufficiently broken for those who don’t yet know Jesus. Our warnings sound hollow at best. But here's my best shot.

Isn't there incongruity with a God of love and a place of final punishment called hell?

If we think of Jesus as being the ultimate expression of God’s sacrificial love, then His words should carry a special weight because no one else taught more about hell. Jesus pushes us to see life from an eternal perspective. In Luke 12, He tells His followers not to be scared of hyper-religious terrorists who could persecute and murder them: “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”

But if God can throw someone into hell, how can He possibly love?

Let me give you another picture of hell: it is the one place where the self-centered are protected from the dangers of love, as C. S. Lewis put it. Jesus actually said that hell was created for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). The word most commonly translated in the New Testament as hell is Gehenna. Gehenna is derived from a literal place called the “valley of Hinnom” found in the Old Testament—a place where pagan Jews would commit human sacrifice by throwing their children in an ever-burning city garbage dump. When Jesus referred to Gehenna, he borrowed literal images of worms and flames and burning refuse. Every Jew could understand that description because of the awful reality of the human garbage dump. It was a frightening illustration for hell.

But if we can’t conceive of a God who would send someone to such a place, what does it say about that same God who would give His own son over to a tortuous death to rescue us from that end?

The story is this: our condition is so heinous, so unapproachable, so hideous, that only the drastic measure of a perfect sacrifice could destroy the disease of sin in us. The entire race is infected with an AIDS-like virus that destroys the soul...and only one antidote exists. Sin so miniaturizes the human condition that the first step into God’s presence is as high as Everest...we cannot step up; we are unable. That puts hell in another light for me: God, who will separate the infected from the healthy, comes to us with a vaccine drawn from His own veins. The looming of hell makes the God of Love even greater to me. Hell is the only refuge from holy, perfect love.

But does it last forever…and with no hope?

We are creatures locked in time and space; eternity & infinity are impossible concepts to grasp—our understanding of time is stringing minute after minute together in a linear fashion. Eventually, even Death and Hell—as personified in the book of Revelation—are thrown into a lake of fire. And who knows what that completely entails?

So do I believe in a literal hell?

What makes the difference? A dream is just as frightening if you never wake up. If the images used by the New Testament writers were metaphorical, is that preferable to the awful reality they are trying to convey? I would say hell is hell; and if the Captain of the ship says get in My Son’s lifeboat, I would trust His judgment.

Simply put: our pictures of hell are made dangerously real by the integrity of the Messenger.

12 comments:

  1. Well as a people, we have already looked over the existence of demons. It's more acceptable to say someone could possibly have a mental problem than be in warfare. It's more understood.

    If we'd just call it what it is and stop trying to be so sweet and kind about it...people would have reality smack them in the face more. Perhaps that is what they'd need. Hell wouldn't be joked about as much then would it?

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  2. My inaugural address at the Great White Throne Judgment of the Dead, after I have raptured out billions! The Secret Rapture soon, by my hand!
    Read My Inaugural Address
    My Site=http://www.angelfire.com/crazy/spaceman
    Your jaw will drop!

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  3. Unfortunately, serious subjects are made light of in our culture. As Ronni said, hell is something that is joked about and not taken seriously these days.

    There is a book written by Bill Wiese, published just last year by Charisma House, about an experience Bill had that completely changed his life. Bill was literally transported to hell, but then brought back. The purpose for this is summed up in this paragraph from the book's introduction:

    "Yes, I was taken to a literal burning hell, and no, it had nothing to do with being good or bad. The reason I was shown this place was to bring back a message of warning. My story is not one to condemn, but rather to inform you that hell is a real place – it does exist. God’s desire is that no one go there. But the sad and simple fact is that people make the choice to go to hell every day."

    The name of this book is 23 Minutes in Hell. If you aren’t really sure that hell exists, or you want more of a heart for those who don’t know Jesus yet, I recommend this book. If you are not profoundly impacted also, let me know!

    Believe it or not, it’s available at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

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  4. I remember a theology teacher that I had once threw out the question, "Does it go against God's goodness to send someone to hell?". I'll never forget his response. No, because Hell is eternal separation from God. God is just giving them what they have stubbornly chosen their whole life in refusing the gift of his Son Jesus. His desire is that ALL come to repentance but if they continue to choose to exercise their free will and refuse Jesus's gift of salvation, God will relent to their free will.

    For me, Hell doesn't have to be a place, Hell would truly be a life of separation from His presence in my life, in the present or eternally!

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  5. dave, how did you become so eloquent?
    your post simply rocked!

    i adore that God will remove anything and everything that hinders love. recently a dear friend who was inquiring about the Lord to me, asked why i never once talked about hell with him before he began pursuing and discovering Jesus...or ever for that matter. i realized, that i hadn't considered it, because my desire was to love him as the Lord does-i was so consumed with trying to do that, (as well as worried i may make an error in such a way) that the idea of hell was obsolete in those times of discussion.

    i think i'd had one too many encounters with street corner doomers Bible thumping the living begeezus out of me.

    hell is motivated by love as well---everything He does is motivated in love. that's a confounder! i've tried to wrap my mind around that one for a while now, but if we know our God, it can be nothing but truth.

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  6. Hey Dave your great

    I just wanted to say in a sense God only sends people to Hell who want to go there / away from His presense. Hell is only for volunteers, He only sending a person where they have chossen to go.

    He has offered everyone the way to avoid Hell. They choose !!!

    I believe those in Hell if given a chance to get out would still not choose to Serve the Lord.

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  7. Hey gang,
    Esquire's comment reminded me of a little fictional classic from C. S. Lewis called "The Great Divorce" in which people in hell are offered regular bus trips to heaven. It's a quick, thought-provoking must-read. Guaranteed you'll see yourself in some of the characters. No kidding. Available at your local friendly public library...

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  8. Jillian mentioned "recently a dear friend who was inquiring about the Lord to me, asked why i never once talked about hell with him before he began pursuing and discovering Jesus ... or ever for that matter." How DO you respond to that??

    I would have mentioned this in my earlier post had I know: besides Bill Wiese's book 23 Minutes in Hell, there is an abbreviated audio message which can be found at several sites by googling 'Bill Wiese.'

    This site Bill Wiese_23MinutesInHell has both the audio (click on 'MP3 Audio') and a transcript of everything said.

    It will give you plenty to talk about (or think about).

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  9. house-

    i have a run on sentence issue-it's severe. i'm seeking professional grammatical help.

    :)

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  10. and subsequently, i wanted you to know i am aware of the mild probing from the question-

    the point is, hell is real. absolutely. i, however, wish that the real, reality of all realities, the love of Christ Himself, be the motivator for those seeking His face. His beauty and zeal for them to be the initiation to desire intimacy with the Son of God. not the other way around.

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  11. I agree - our motivation should be from love, not fear.

    Given that, we can ask ourselves: why did Jesus bring up hell as much as he did?

    As much as we would prefer to ignore or downplay hell, it seems to me that God wants people to be warned about hell. Likewise, some people might, in retrospect, appreciate a clearer warning.

    So, is there a way in today's culture to talk about hell and be taken seriously without all the negative aspects of "FIRE and BRIMSTONE" tactics?

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  12. As someone who has been sinned against in horrible ways, knowing that God is a true and righteous Judge gives me the ability to breathe and hope. If Gods character is true and right than He will hold, the offender, resposible. Otherwise I am without hope truely because "he" has gotten away with torture for years and years and I have suffered. But knowing God is caring for me, sees my tears and the torture that no one should have to endure and I should have to survived, but God will judge and get justice and show mercy to me even now. Hopefully I can live, and heal now. But that gives me hope. God's justice.

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