I was talking with a good friend today about the Christian belief of an eternal abyss or torment, real hellfire and brimstone kind of stuff! During our discussion he stated he had come to the conclusion the hereafter was little more than a “dirt nap”. Through the years he has “lost the faith”, and I assume that by and large not to be an intellectual decision, but more of an emotional response to past abuses suffered by the carcinogens of Christianity these often creep in, distort, deform, and left untreated cause death…
Those killers of course are those that turn faith to fear, relationship to rules, and gain to guilt.
The basis of my eternal view nonetheless is located in the book of Revelation… For those that believe the Bible to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, and given to men, who in turn penned those Words for our betterment, and that these Words contain present and eternal unchanging truths, the following text validates our view, otherwise known and called; the truth.
(Revelation 20:12) And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
(Revelation 20:13) And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
(Revelation 20:14) And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
(Revelation 20:15) And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
The original origin of our discussion was based on the fact that my friend… lets call him “Rob” (after all that is his name!) stated he had not realized some evangelicals took issue with Joel Osteen on some of his practices namely omitting the gospel message of Christ, and the validation that one must be saved to avoid eternal despair. As the conversation progressed we began to discuss the variety of issues such omission would cause, why they are important and to what degree these topics seem to have become so taboo in the church today.
Now then I need all to realize that my message is laced with love, grace, mercy and the forgiveness of sins, provided for and given by Jesus Christ through the cross… In this manner I in no way boast of my faith as some pompous “Christians” do… Instead I consider myself the fortunate recipient of someone else’s sacrifice, and the benefactor of absolute mercy(The sacrifice of Jesus) I think that view is best, because it is most biblically accurate and keeps the Christian from elevating self to some sort of “self righteous”(which is actually an oxy moron by the way) attitude surveying others as stupid immoral sinners… The truth is we Christians are humans whom the blood of Christ has washed, and in which His Spirit dwells … making us what we could not be on our own… Saved, sanctified, redeemed etc…
The unfortunate reality for so many Rob, being one, and myself being another, among so many others is, we grew up in the Bible belt, which sought to gain disciples and to retain them by:
And a variety of other manipulative means…
Readying the mind to understand the horrendous consequences of sin, but often times spending much less time detailing the depth of grace, mercy and love… Found in Jesus!
The result of that is manifested in one of two ways…
1) My case – I have trouble being free in Christ and enjoying His love and mercy because I always feel guilt for no apparent reason! A direct result of fear based teaching the second manifestation is
2) My Friends case - A denial and rejection either completely or partially of Christianity, based on the fact that one becomes tired of feeling guilt, particularly while watching others of less moral character seem to advance by the tool of ministry
So in the end both parties are quite similar… Some chose door one, while unfortunately others chose door two… To those of you who have selected “Door Two” I’d like to address this first installment!
The reality if eternal punishment is quite real biblically, and based on scientific evidence validating other concepts biblically based, the intelligent decision would be to accept the fact that God certainly does exist, making the next question “Now what do I do about that?”
For certain a proper argument would then include such scientific proofs validating the reality of God’s existence… by and large however you Door #2 people don’t need that validation, for you have known Him, and His reality is evident within you even still, and by and large it is inescapable.
It is not proof of existence you need, but understanding of the concept of a “Loving God” which can penetrate the skewed image of Him painted by hardliners whom failed to understand this concept themselves or more ghastly used the image of holy anger to sway and manipulate congregants into ; serving, giving etc…
The Reality of Hell, to a Loving and Giving God:
So infuriated is God with the concept of eternal punishment that He gave the ultimate sacrifice, His Son Jesus Christ. Consider for a moment the concept that exists here; imagine the pain and suffering associated with your dearest loves suffering. When consoling individuals who have lost loved ones to some terminal illness, the most grievous part is not so much the loss, although that is painful, but it is the suffering that precedes the death. This the Father was willing to endure that you and I might escape the reality of Hell.
That is to say God the Father so believed in this concept of eternal punishment that He was willed to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer, to be ridiculed, to be flogged, beaten, spat upon and then crucifixion, which is excruciatingly painful, unimaginably tormenting, and intensely torturous! The reason for this action is simple! God loves us.
(John 3:16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
(Romans 5:8) But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
While I cannot deny that an eternal punishment exists for sinners of whom all human kind is, as powerful a concept is redemption, justification, and acceptance, these the benefits of salvation! If we understand the concept of grace we realize that not by what I have done, or will do, but by what Jesus has done and what He will do, that this punishment is exchanged for reward, not just eternally but in the present time as well!
In other words, it is by the cross of Christ that we are saved, and by the gift of the Holy Spirit that we are regenerated. These acts occur by faith not by works and are provided not by condemnation, but by love!
Therefore for you door #2 people, let us well establish in our minds the gospel is less about eternal hell fire and brimstone, and more about redemption, and victory! You and I, us guilt carriers, must absolutely release guilt, understanding that the atoning blood of Jesus cleansed us from ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS!
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Furthermore we must also understand that there is NO CONDEMNATION in Christ Jesus. We have been freed from sin, death, hell, guilt, and shame. In fact as audacious as it may seem, and I trouble with wrapping my mind around this one
WE ARE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD – IN CHRIST JESUS!
Literally when God looks at us, He sees righteousness, holiness and purity. Imagine describing yourself that way? Do you dare? Imagine accepting that God loves you, and I mean really loves you, and is for you, and seeks your heart, because He loves you…
The most critical aspect of all this God stuff, is to understand the power of redemption and the meaning of the cross… which I will detail more in my next post, but as a preview of that the cross means:
God loves us
He was willing to give it all that we might live
He is for us
He is searching for our heart
We can be free from shame
We can be free from guilt
We can be free from fear
We can be free from condemnation
We can be free from sin
All this and so much more…
Are you a door #2 person? Maybe you are a door #1 person… Whoever you are, are you riddled with shame, guilt, fear, condemnation or other life controlling issues? There is still power in the cross, there is still life in the blood… Behold – Jesus makes all things new!
Until next time…