Monday, April 1, 2013

Why the Hell? Part 3: O Great Love of God

Alright, it's finally time to finish up the exploration on Hell. I've done a lot of thinking and soul-searching, and come to some pretty remarkable conclusions. You may not agree with everything I have to say, but I truly believe I've arrived at a Biblical picture of Hell that is as complete as I can make it.

The Nature of Hell

This is actually surprisingly simple. As I explained last time, the Greek word that is translated to "Hell" in the New Testament is "Gehenna", referring to a place of paganistic fiery child sacrifice outside Jerusalem. So Jesus warns in Luke 12:5: "But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him." What are some other characteristics of this Hell?
  • Fiery (Matthew 5:22, 18:9, James 3:6)
  • A place of destruction of both body and soul (Matthew 10:28)
  • A place of darkness (Matthew 6:23)
Well, here we have a contradiction. Hell can't literally be a place of both fire and darkness. What is Jesus getting at? I think these speak to theological, not literal truths--darkness as the absence of God's light, and fire as the destruction of the soul as the body decays.

Here's the crazy part. God isn't just destroying the soul--He's destroying it so He can give us new life. 1 Corinthians 15:50 says, "I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable." And in v53: "For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality."

In fact, earlier in v42-44, Paul says: "So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." What he is saying applies just as much to the soul. It must be destroyed in order to live forever--to be "saved through the flames" (1 Corinthians 3:15). It isn't pleasant, but it's worth it in the end.

But what about their sin? Paul covers that too! Romans 7:1 says that "the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives". Dying frees us from the power of sin, and we can't die again. Christians have already died to their sin by being identified with Christ's death, but everyone else still dies in both body and soul, as Jesus says--so that they can be freed from sin. Psalm 32:8 reads, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you." This verse clearly isn't David speaking like the rest of the Psalm; it's a promise from God.

God's Motives

Throughout scripture we see God revealing Himself more and more to His people as they grow in spiritual maturity and wisdom. As their understanding of Him, of righteousness, and of sin continue, He continues to move ahead of them, drawing them to greater understanding of Himself. As I observed last time, our conception of justice has evolved considerably since the first century. Rehabilitating wrongdoers is now seen as more just and more loving than simply punishing them.

So I believe God, continuing to be vastly beyond us in righteousness, is not "challenging" us to revert back to a retributive model of justice. The purpose of His destroying sinners' souls and raising them to life again is that they can be made perfect, without stain or blemish (Colossians 1:22), fit to enter His kingdom. Death, either through Christ or through Hell, is an essential step of that rehabilitation.

Friends, God is simply too powerful and too loving (2 Peter 3:9) to let any soul slip through His fingers. Whether through Christ or through the fire of Hell, He will bring every last one of us to repentance and a glorious, perfect new life with Him. Yet this shouldn't be a damper to missions, but should drive us to seek to hasten the coming of God's new kingdom! Rejoice in the God who makes all things new under Christ (Ephesians 1:10)!

Author's note: In case it wasn't already obvious, this post is an April Fool's Day joke and I haven't really become a universalist.

No comments:

Post a Comment