Friday, August 31, 2007

What About Hell?

In this entry, I will explore what the definition of Hell actually is and how it compares to the common understanding of Hell.

We have to get away from this idea of hell being a bunch of fire where we burn forever or relive bad experiences over and over or are physically tortured constantly… although the Bible does describe Hell as a fiery furnace, eternal fire, with weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:50; 25:41 NAS)

We need to refocus our definition of Hell away from our own physical discomfort from fire or torture, and toward the real definition of Hell: Eternal separation from our loving God, Savior and Creator. It’s eternal separation. That is what Hell really is. Isaiah 59:2 talks about how our iniquities have caused a separation between us and God. Although it may be all of those other things like fire and physical torture, that is not the important detail of what Hell really is. Hell is Eternal separation from God. It doesn’t have to be a pit of fire to be Hell. It doesn’t matter if you were lying in a field of purple and white flowers forever if you’re eternally separated from God and our Savior Jesus… that is Hell. Of course in reality, there wouldn’t be any beautiful flowers because that would speak of God’s glory and love therefore you wouldn’t be separated from God. So the “place” of Hell is probably not a field of flowers. But the point is that it’s not about the place of Hell, it’s about what will be eternally taken away from you, that is, the presence of God. It’s eternal regret (“gnashing of teeth”) that when you had the opportunity, you rejected Jesus as your Savior. It’s a torment of your soul, heart, mind, and body beyond any physical torture you would ever be able to fathom. It’s pure hopelessness.

On a more minimal scale, there’s a mirror of this in the torment and hopelessness you see in many people today. Many commit suicide, turn to drugs, give their bodies over to anyone for money, free, or other self-destructive things. It’s hopelessness on a massive scale. It’s the feeling of God being absent in their lives, therefore at the root of it all, nothing matters because there is nothing in which to have hope. Still, even when life gets this horrible and hopeless, it still doesn’t compare with the hopelessness of Hell, because even when in this life we have lost all hope, there’s still the possibility of hope. Hope for hopefulness, if you will. Even at our lowest, most hopeless points of life, Christ is still available. Hope is still available. There is a possibility of hope. In Hell, there is no possibility for hope. There is no hope for hopefulness. There is no more availability of Christ. Jesus is gone. God is gone. The Holy Spirit is gone. All are gone, and what you’re left with is the torment of regret, the torment of eternal separation from the only hope available and it’s not available. Complete loneliness. That is Hell.

To break people of this idea of Hell, we have to revisit and rethink a common misunderstanding: God either sends you to heaven or hell. This idea that God “sends” you to hell because of bad behavior or unbelief is purely misguided. The Bible says that he who does not believe is condemned already (John 3:18 NIV). We have all sinned and done wrong in sight of God, and the wages of sin is death and eternal separation from God. We are all on a crash course for hell. We’ve gone to the terminal of temptation, bought the ticket of Satan’s lies, and have boarded the plane, all by our own destructive nature and choice. In essence, it’s not God who has booked our plane ticket, but we have in our own flawed nature booked a ticket with the airline that has nice looking airplanes but whose mechanics are all frauds and engines are doomed to explode. God has the other terminal with the humble looking airplanes and the not-so-cushy seats, but whose tickets are already paid for, it’s never on auto-pilot, whose mechanics fly with the plane and destination is guaranteed. Our destination is hell already. God’s desire is for us to choose heaven. In fact, just for the moment, let’s get away from the term “heaven” due to its broad use, assuming nature, thoughts of Cherubs, streets of gold, and hippy-esque visions of peace. God’s desire is for us to choose eternal life; eternal unity with the Creator. It’s the exact opposite of the eternal separation from Him we would have in Hell. It’s eternal hopefulness, a forever sanctuary in the One who created you, knows everything about you, and Whose care will never end, but Whose love for you cannot grow any more because it’s already about to rip a hole in time and space. That is hopefulness! That is what you will miss when you choose eternal separation. The worst thing is, people never think of it as a choice of eternal separation. Often they know they are deciding to not follow Christ. They know they are deciding to not be a Christian. But they almost never think about the choice they’re making indirectly. A decision to not follow Christ is a decision to accept the immediate separation, and it’s a decision to accept the eternal separation. The good news about that is that at this point, all hope is not lost. You still can decide to “die to your old self” and accept and follow Jesus as your Savior. But the connotation of deciding to not follow Christ is the decision to accept eternal separation and hopelessness.

Inside the thought of choosing Christ or not, there are those who would claim “Well I’ve never denied Christ. I believe He’s a legitimate belief for some and He existed, but church and being a Christian just aren’t for me”. The absence of accepting a claimed truth is denial. It doesn’t even matter if it really is true or not, it’s been denied if it is not accepted. You don’t have to say “That is NOT the truth and I deny it” in order to deny it. I don’t want to get caught up in discussing this topic, but it needs to be mentioned because some would claim that not choosing to accept something isn’t denial. It absolutely is denial. You either accept something or you do not. Accept or deny. When a defendant or witness is interview by a news channel in front of the court house and they say “I will neither confirm nor deny that claim” they have pretty much confirmed the claim, to an extent anyway. It may not be the whole truth, but it isn’t wholly wrong.

So, what’s the truth about Hell? To sum it up, we need to refocus our definition to what it is: Eternal separation from hope, salvation, and love from God. No more hoping for hope. No more chances. Just despair, hopelessness, lost ness, regret, and utter loneliness with no end in…


Anonymous said...

"The absence of accepting a claimed truth is denial." Well put! And congrats on the impending little one :)

Anonymous said...

if God created the entire universe how can one ever be separated from God?

sarah b said...

love these thoughts, ckb. all too often we as Christians forget that heaven and hell are decisions we actively make every day, that it's not something that gets instantly decided by God once we've left this life. our heaven starts when we begin relationship with God, just as hell is a part of our lives if we decide to live separately from Him.