Tag: fire

Hell-Believing, Wrath-Preaching, Fire-Breathing Christian—What If You’re Wrong?

Chances are, it’s a belief you’ve grown up with all your life—God loves humanity so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross in order to save us from His eternal punishment of sinners who don’t love Him back in return through believing in His Son and repenting of their sins. As the story goes, through His crucifixion, Jesus took upon Himself the punishment from God that we deserve for sin. God required the death of Jesus in order to forgive sin, and personal faith and repentance are how we benefit from that event. Otherwise, the work of Jesus isn’t applied to our account and we are doomed to spend eternity in a place of unimaginable suffering where our greatest wish is to die, but by God’s design we are prevented from doing so—it’s hell, and it’s forever.

For those who might find this storyline of human redemption difficult to stomach with its dark portrayals of God, the Gospel, and Jesus. For those who wonder how God could claim to be so loving and yet act so sinister in not only imagining this kind of hell, but creating it and making the brutal murder of Jesus the only way out of it. For those who dare to look ahead towards the psychotic duplicity of what it might feel like enjoying eternity in the bliss of heaven while your loved ones scorch in unbearable suffering. For those this whole damnation-thing strikes their conscience as being a bit unsettling, unnerving, and confusing—we’ve been taught a simple fix. Hell is a necessary and natural manifestation of God’s divine holiness and justice. In heaven, we will encounter these attributes so completely and fully that any doubts we might have about God or people suffering eternally will somehow no longer haunt us, but rather rest peacefully and easily upon our souls. So much, that in the presence of God who allows for, created, and sustains hell, we will be forever desiring to sing His praises as millions of others suffer unimaginably.

In short, the brutal, violent death of Jesus and a hell of eternal pain and suffering have been handed down to us unquestionably as the ultimate reflection of God’s character and His best ideas for how to extend and make real His deep abiding love for humanity.

Maybe for you, these popular teachings regarding God’s narrative of salvation are a comfortable fit and central to your faith understanding. In your mind, if people go to hell, it’s their fault, not God’s. God can do whatever He wants, and if Hell is the setup, so be it. Besides, the Scriptures are clear, people have been warned—believe or burn, that’s the Gospel. If one rejects Jesus and refuses to heed His commands, they’ll get their just reward—an eternity of torture. God is holy, just, and sovereign no matter how vicious and brutal things play out—for His ways are not our ways, who are we to cross-examine the Divine? Therefore, you proudly and boldly declare the reality of a flaming eternity and the glory of God in sending (or allowing) people there who reject Jesus or live disobediently—thanking God, it’s not you, of course.

Or perhaps for you, as much as you dislike thinking about hell and are even inwardly perplexed by its reality in contrast to a loving God, your understanding of the biblical witness and teachings of Jesus seem to leave you no other choice but to conclude that hell is real and real people will be spending eternity in some kind of suffering existence that affords no hope and no way out. It’s not how you would draw it up, and the whole idea is secretly unsettling to you. When it comes to God’s wrath, burning in flames, and the brutal crucifixion of His own Son, you’d just as soon focus on something else and hope it all comes out in the wash. You have your doubts, a lot of questions, and significant uneasiness with it all, but that’s about as far as you’ve taken it.

Wherever you are on the spectrum, chances are, without a hell for unbelieving sinners, the foundations of your faith understanding make little sense and largely comes crashing to the ground. In your mind, if there’s no hell, there’s no purpose for Jesus. If there’s no hell, there’s no purpose for believing. If there’s no hell, there’s no purpose in being a Christian. If there’s no hell, what’s the motivation? If there’s no hell, what’s our message? If there’s no hell, what’s the Gospel? If there’s no hell, what happens to all the effort I’ve put into my righteousness?

So, as difficult, foundation-shaking, and faith-unraveling as this question could potentially be, I’m still going to ask it—what if you’re wrong?

What if hell is nothing like you think?

What if hell (if a place at all) is actually just as Jesus alluded, a literal place (Gehenna) located in Jerusalem associated with the valley of Hinnom that was used as the city dump where a fire was constantly kept to burn up and consume all of the city’s unwanted junk? In fact, the word Gehenna occurs 12 times in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament, each time being mistranslated to mean “hell” in several versions of the Bible, even though Jesus used it as a clear reference to a city dump.

What if it’s an embarrassingly huge stretch of theological abuse to determine in one moment that the admonition by Jesus to, “pluck your eye out” is certainly not to be taken literally, but yet in the next moment, His literal use of “Gehenna” in the same sentence should somehow be unequivocally understood to refer figuratively to a real place in the bottom of the earth where people are tortured by the wrath of God in eternal flames? Really?

What if the other three biblical words traditionally interpreted as referring to a “hell of fire and eternal torment” actually are grossly mistranslated and don’t actually mean “hell” at all? In fact, Sheol occurs 65 times in the Hebrew Manuscripts of the Old Testament, and it simply means “the grave” (the place of the dead) or “the pit.” Hades occurs 11 times in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament and it is the direct equivalent of the Hebrew word Sheol. Thus, it also simply means “the grave “or “the pit.” Tartarus occurs only once in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament in this verse: “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell (tartarus) and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.” Notice that God casts the angels (not humanity) who sinned down to tartarus and chained them in darkness, to be reserved for judgement.

What if the single word “hell” we use today and associate as “hell” (a place of fiery, eternal torture) is actually not found in the Bible—nowhere, and in no manuscripts? It’s true.

What if, in fact, much of modern Christianity’s convenient love affair with a hell of flames, wrath, and demons comes much more from the influence of Dante’s “Inferno” than ever could be derived from the true words of Jesus?

What if hell is actually a reality experienced in the presence of God, not apart from Him like commonly taught? In fact, two writers in Scripture describe this very notion: “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb,”  and “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” 

What if hell is not the result of God doing something contrary to His nature (love), but rather doing more of it? In fact, the Greek word for “wrath” in the New Testament is the word “orge.” Unfortunately, the way this word has been translated has been shaped greatly by our pre-existing concepts of God as being angry, temperamental, and hell-bent on punishing. The word “orge” actually means “any intense emotion.” It’s from where we get words like “orgy” and “orgasm.” At its core, “wrath” has to do with a very strong passion—not even associated to anger. In fact, the root of “orge” actually means “to reach out in a straining fashion for something that you long to possess.” 

What if the wrath of God is not Him pouring out anger, vengeance, or retaliation, but rather His furious love—grasping, reaching, shaking to possess every person that they might experience His Grace?

What if hell is the experience of religious-hearted people who despise the pure Grace of God and His unconditional love and inclusion of all people into Himself and the Kingdom? In the eternal presence of the white-hot love of God forever flowing out as a river from His throne (Daniel 7:10), their souls are scorched with frustration, rage, and torment as their self-righteousness, conditional love, and religious arrogance, bigotry, and intolerance are exposed—stripped, and rendered powerless and evil. All of it deemed as filthy rags fit for the lake of God’s all consuming fire—the blistering flames of Grace. The presence of all people of every color, gender, orientation, stronghold, sin, and creed sends them into legalistic episodes of uncontainable protest and rage—how can this be, how is this fair, how dare the cross include all of these? Resigned to spend an eternity in the presence of pure Grace, the only way it becomes heaven for them is to do what many will refuse—to repent of their demonizing of God, their worship of the Scriptures, and their own legalistic understandings of it all to the exclusion of truly knowing Jesus and His heart. For the same Grace and love that will be experienced as heaven by many, will be a sure torturous hell for some. Jesus forever flips over the tables yet again, and those whom religion joyously sends to the curb are given a prized seat of bliss, and those whom religion gives elite privilege are found to be pouting and wallowing forever in religious disgust.

What if Jesus didn’t die to save us from white-bearded, angry, and vengeful God, but to save us from a fear-driven faithless life of believing He is?

What if Jesus didn’t die at the hands of a God who required His blood-soaked death in order to forgive, but rather at the claws of the religious and their diabolical systems of evil whose chief desire is to murder pure Grace and all its self-righteous destroying, all-including implications?

What if, in the hands of a world dripping with oppression, Jesus, through the cross, chose the way of nonviolence, sacrifice, service, forgiveness, inclusion, and unconditional love to model and manifest the Kingdom that was already eternally established by His Grace?

What if Jesus didn’t die to forgive us, but to manifest to the world that God already had, long ago outside of time in the realm of eternity?

What if God isn’t schizophrenic after all—harboring unconditional love for humanity one moment and eternal hate the next?

What if the truth is, you can’t reject Grace—you can’t stop its presence, pursuit, favor, or blessings over your life or that of any other, you can only love it or resist it? Loving, believing, trusting Grace fills your life with heavenly rest. Not loving, believing, and trusting Grace fills your life with a hell of frustration, self-righteousness, bitterness, religiosity, judgementalism and angst—as long as you desire, even for eternity.

What if God isn’t an insecure, limited, and codependent parent, whose capacity to save, love, and forgive are restricted to and governed by the obedience (or disobedience) of His children—thus, making them the Lords of the future, not Him?

What if God never changes—He is love through and through, forever and always, no matter what or who?

What if the presence of alternative biblically-faithful interpretations regarding ones understanding of hell and God’s connection to it back you into an interpretive corner, so much that if you believe in an eternal hell of torment and torture for the unbelieving and a God who would author it, you are doing so solely by your own choice?

For the results are in—history paints the picture. We Christians have been drastically wrong before—wrong about racism, wrong about equality, wrong about violence and war, the list keeps on growing.

Hell-believing, wrath-preaching, fire-breathing Christian—what if you’re wrong, yet again?

If I’m wrong, then God will most certainly go ahead, around, and over me in a divine full-court-press to scare the hell out of the people I’m misleading—literally. For there’s nothing about me or my message that the Holy Spirit is powerless or unwilling to usurp. Any wayward guidance on my part can easily be reversed by the omnipotent leading of the Father. I would boldly stand before the Throne having exaggerated the goodness, love, and Grace of God—if ever that could be a thing.

But, if you’re wrong, you have participated in nothing less than the evil demonization of God and the sheer blaspheming of His Spirit. You’ve allowed your spiritual laziness, vulnerability to religious brainwashing, and twisted comfort with the notion of people going to a torturous hell and a God who would create it, to win over your heart, mind, thinking, attitudes and actions. You have leaned on your own understanding of the Scriptures to the spiritual abuse of others—imprisoning them into a life of fear as they are raped of their capacity to know the joy, freedom, and peace that comes from awakening to God who is love, Jesus who is Grace, and the Gospel that is truly good news for all.

Hell-believing, wrath-preaching, fire-breathing Christian—what if you’re wrong?

Paradise is the love of God, wherein is the enjoyment of all blessedness… I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love. For what is so bitter and vehement as the punishment of love?  -St. Isaac the Syrian

“The flames of heaven will be hotter for some than the flames of hell could ever be”  -Dallas Willard

Grace is the celebration of life, relentlessly hounding all the non-celebrants in the world.”  -Robert Capon

Grace is brave. Be brave

Christian, Why Aren’t You Pounding On My Door?

It’s not an issue of debate, at least, probably not for you.

In sync with your faith understanding and interpretation of the Bible, you believe hell is absolutely real and anyone who doesn’t repent, say the “sinner’s prayer,” and make the proper life adjustments is destined to spend eternity there.

For you, hell is a God appointed, forever place of unbearable torture and suffering where the occupant’s greatest desire is to die, but they can’t—it’s hell, their due punishment for rejecting a holy and just God.

Therefore, the understood purpose of Jesus is to communicate and manifest God’s love to people while making it possible for them, through their repentance and faith, to be “saved” from the terrifying, agonizing, eternal reality God has prepared for them if they don’t love Him back in return. In your mind, perhaps God doesn’t exactly “send” people to hell nor desire their eternal demise, but they rather choose it. Either way, at the very least, God allows hell for the unbelieving, is holy in doing so, and your prescribed mission is, out of love and obedience, to do everything you can to keep people from going there.

I’m not being critical nor condemning of your faith understanding, just descriptive.

Which leaves me with a question.

If you believe hell is so real and terrible, God loves me enough to send His Son to die a gruesome death on a cross to make it possible for me to avoid it, and you are His plan to tell me all about it so that I can believe all the right things to escape it, why aren’t you pounding on my door every minute of every day to convince me of it? Even if I should turn away, brush you off, or even reject it all together, why don’t you keep relentlessly pursuing it? It’s a hell of eternal torment that you believe in, is it not?

What could possibly be more important? Certainly, not your marriage, family, career, or enjoyed way of life—that would be ridiculously selfish in contrast to the eternal suffering of even just one person, especially in the kind of hell to which you subscribe. What kind of twisted love could one possibly possess that would ever consider resting for just a moment, knowing the potential result if you do?

With millions of “lost” people, you believe, standing at the edge of forever fire only a heartbeat away from eternal torture, how is it that you can be doing, investing, spending, prioritizing, and participating in anything less than the direct pleading, door-pounding, begging, and drawing of every person possible?

And what about your behavior? I hear that your faith tradition believes that little bugger can actually become a stumbling block, even unto the saving faith of another. With all due respect, as much as you seem to be comfortable in talking about everyone else’s personal conduct, for just a moment, can we talk about yours? To think that, for example, an overweight, gluttonous pastor or smoking parishioner might be the primary reason a person concludes, “this whole Jesus thing isn’t for me,” shouldn’t that send every Christian to their local Gold’s Gym after Sunday preaching, not the typical gorging at Golden Corral commonly themed? If that doesn’t potentially shutdown a heathen’s moment of saving faith, what about your 50% divorce rate? What about the 60% of church leaders who watch porn? What about all the church gossip and political infighting? We’re talking about a hell of eternal torment that you believe in, are we not?

Which reminds me, I also recall a couple central, pivotal passages from the Bible that are highly faith defining. One dictates that in actuality, it’s “God’s kindness that leads to repentance” and the other, “the ministry of the Law is death.” So, wait a second. If a white-hot hell is so real and repentance is the sure ticket to the cool breezes of heaven, shouldn’t we be the kindest people on planet earth and exuding a ministry of Grace like the world has never seen? Shouldn’t we be revered in every corner of the planet as being the gentlest, most compassionate, radically gracious, unconditional loving, patient, selfless, generous, serving, and humble people ever known upon the earth—even to a fault?

I know this might be a tough question to answer, but in light of the seriousness of your claims about hell, why isn’t yours a clear, resounding, and flat out earth-shaking lifestyle of relentless kindness, radical Grace, and compassionate character that’s pounding at the doors of every heart and mind in every moment of every day to convince them? I hate to ask this yet again, but this is an eternal hell of unimaginable pain, suffering, and brutal torture at the hands of demons that we are talking about, is it not?

I, and many others, have been carefully listening for your answer, and perhaps we have sadly received it. For as much as this is difficult to say, the truth is, our doors have almost never felt your genuine knock, our hearts rarely ever hear the plea of your kindness, our eyes see so much hypocrisy, and our souls starve in absence of observing and feeling any genuine love, acceptance, and true Grace from you.

Rather, if I’m honest, you seem so desperate to insist that your hell is so real and that I need to take it so drastically serious. Yet, I am growing more and more convinced that, by all the things you do and don’t, you yourself don’t actually believe it, perhaps not even in Jesus either. For if you did, with all due respect, I just have to believe you’d be so much more loving, so much more kinder, so much more gracious, so much more concerned about your own walk, and so much more focused on loving, respecting, accepting, and pursuing mine—you know, like Jesus.

Instead, I see state-of-the-art church buildings, lighting systems, worship packages, budgets, and million dollar pastoral homes and salaries. I see Christian clubs with crosses on top where like-minded, like-skinned people gather like herds of cattle to daintily drivel amongst themselves and viciously judge the world. I see people who are addicted to the sound of their own spiritual voices, consumed by consuming, and content with making their spiritual satisfaction the idolatrous priority of their faith. I see people leaning on their ideologies to the detriment, harm, and abuse of others. I see people who demonstrate little-to-no restraint in highjacking Jesus for political power, personal empire building, and ministry fame. I see people who are feverishly unkind, selfish, privileged, and pretentious—totally at peace with a faith-life of spiritual navel gazing, people-judging, bible-weaponizing, and personal significance seeking. I see people who marginalize, discriminate, and torment those with whom they disagree, dislike, or conveniently deem to be sinning differently. I see people who view the world as a spiritual project—a pasture of beastly humans to ultimately rope into their brand of religious performance, rule-keeping, soul-milking, and mold-fitting. I see people who have spiritually rationalized nearly every form of evil under the sun while joyfully passing it off as biblical faithfulness. For much of modern Christianity has become so thin, white, privileged, cutting, and square, you could use it as piece of paper—best crumpled up and discarded, to be sure. “LeBron pulls up, he shoots, he scores”—all of it, into file thirteen.

If your hell is so true and your faith so loving, how in the world could you ever have time, energy, imagination, resources, or heart for becoming so much of what Jesus is clearly not?

Perhaps the real truth is, “hell” is only as important to you as far as it involves theological debates, condemning perceived sinners, drawing lines, spiritual justifying your platform, mission, and pride, and fearing people into your beliefs.

It obviously doesn’t bother you—that much. Cause you to love—that much. Inspire your kindness and graciousness—that much, nor compels your every all.

Hell—it’s all so convenient, is it not?

With all due respect, if you want me to believe your hell is so real, you are going to have to do a lot better at convincing me that you actually believe it, first.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

What the Hell?

Lately, hell has become a hot topic; all pun intended.

It might be surprising for you to realize that there is rising, legitimate debate concerning various views of hell. I know what some of my readers might be inclined to think, “But it’s so straight forward in the Bible.”  To that, others would add, “so if anybody has any kind of debate about it, they must be moving away from the plain teachings of the Bible.”

Honestly, I understand that kind of sentiment, I really do. In the past, I had my own list of topics that were “no brainers” when it comes to what one should believe and what the Bible “says.”  My Evangelical grooming as a pastor convinced me that the more you grow as a Christian, the more black and white issues should become to you. Furthermore, once you land on a conclusion that fits with what prevails in Evangelical-world and puts you in good company, you can take off your thinking cap and put your heart and mind on autopilot.

However, when I encountered the Gospel of God’s Grace in its purity, it has caused me and challenged me to revisit beliefs and assumptions I have long held. I mean seriously, if I could spend 42 years of my life and become a highly trained and competent pastor, and yet completely miss the most important thing, the real Gospel, it only makes sense that it would be wise for me to reexamine a lot of spiritual things. Furthermore, once you discover that “God is love” and Jesus is to be the ultimate focus and example, one’s understanding of the Bible and how it addresses certain issues is completely viewed through a different set of lenses. Grace changes everything!

In fact, my move away from feeling so strong and sure about the current, popular Evangelical understanding of hell as the place God justly sends people to be punished with an eternity of excruciating torture who don’t believe and/or obey Him, began with the revelation that “God is love.”  This is where all theology and belief must begin and end, and ultimately be judged.

Since God is love, EVERYTHING that comes from Him must come from and confirm that love. Love is not part of His nature, it is His nature. Furthermore, Jesus is the highest manifestation and example of that love.

So, with that in mind, did Jesus have anything to say about Hell? Well, yes and no.

The single word “Hell” we use today and associate as “Hell” (a place of fiery, eternal torture) is actually not found in the Bible.  Nowhere, and in no manuscripts. There are four words in the Bible that are mistranslated as “hell.”  These words are: one Hebrew word sheol, and three Greek words hades, tartarus and gehenna. These words do not mean hell as we typically think of it today.

Sheol occurs 65 times in the Hebrew Manuscripts of the Old Testament, and it means the grave (the place of the dead) or the pit, as correctly translated in most modern versions of the Bible.  Hades occurs 11 times in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament and it is the direct equivalent of the Hebrew word sheol; thus it also means the grave or the pit.  Tartarus occurs only once in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament in the verse below.

2 Peter 2:4  For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell (tartarus) and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.

Please note that God cast the angels (not humanity) who sinned down to tartarus and chained them in darkness, to be reserved for judgement.

Gehenna occurs 12 times in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament, and each time that gehenna occurs, it has been mistranslated to mean hell in several versions of the Bible. Jesus Himself who uses the word gehenna 11 out of the 12 times that gehenna occurs in the Bible, for example in Matthew 18:9.

Matthew 18:9
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell (gehenna) fire.

When Jesus uses the term gehenna fire, I don’t believe He means everlasting, tormenting hell fire in the bottom of the earth as we typically think of today. By the term gehenna fire, Jesus means something much different. Gehenna takes its name from a valley located in Jerusalem called the valley of Hinnom. During Jesus’s time on earth, this valley was used as the city dump. A fire was constantly kept to burn up and consume all of the city’s unwanted junk.

It’s extremely interesting and profound to me that Hebrews 12:9 refers to God as an “all consuming fire.”

Could it be that Jesus was poetically hinting at another entirely different kind of experience for those who reject and rebel from God, one that is actually in the presence of God, the all consuming fire? Keep reading to find out.

It is clear to me that scripture has no one unified word nor description of “hell.” Furthermore, the times Jesus uses the word Gehenna, one must assuredly allow for poetic and symbolic uses thereof.  To allow colorific use of a concept such as “pluck your eye out” as not to be taken literally and yet tie down the use of “Gehenna” in the same sentence to mean a literal place in the bottom of the earth where people are tortured by the wrath of God in eternal flames is a huge stretch at best. Furthermore, that kind of place and reality goes directly against the nature of God, who is love.

So, what is hell? What was Jesus talking about? Is it a real place? How does the God (who is love) have connection to hell? Do I have to believe in a hell that is a never-ending torture from the wrath of God upon people who don’t believe and/or disobey, in order to be faithful to the Bible?

Here are some thoughts…

Hell is real- 

Everybody spends eternity somewhere. We are eternal beings having a physical, bodily experience here on earth. Heaven and hell are two real, eternal experiences.

However, I am not convinced that the reference to actual places associated with words (Sheol, Hades etc.) that are interpreted as “hell” are automatically to be taken literally in interpretation. These descriptions have a far greater chance of being intended to be figurative or symbolic.

Hell is connected to God- 

To suggest that God just allows hell to exist outside of himself and beyond his influence or control is to me, a misguided assertion.

“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:3

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:16

There are no realities, eternal or temporal that do not come from God. God does not take a hands off approach to anything, including “hell.”  If you believe in a torturous, flaming, eternal existence of punishment, you must also believe God is the author and sustainer of it, as He is of everything else.

This is of course, a problematic notion for many. It is the primary issue of the atheist and a growing issue among Christians. God (who is love) would create such a place? The same Jesus who befriends sinners is willing to burn them eternally, no matter how potentially justified? Really? This is God, this is love? The God who is love, who delights in His creation, who sets the stars in their places….this is the best idea He could come up with?

Hell is a reality that takes place in the presence of God- 

Many, in order to justify their view of an angry, torturing, violent God who is justified in sending people to an eternity of unimaginable suffering due to their disbelief and/or disobedience, have interpreted hell to be outside of the presence of God. As if God looks away, can wash His hands, and out of holiness, let hell happen. To them, a fiery, tortuous hell is God’s best idea of what to do with unbelievers. And, they will allow/portray God to take some theological distance from burning, screaming humanity so that He remains holy, and justified in doing so.

I am often amazed how when many allow God to have some inconsistencies, it’s on the side of a willingness to allow Him to be a more violent, torturous, and retributive God instead of a more gracious, loving, merciful, and accepting God. Furthermore, they will go to virtually any interpretive and theological length to prove that God is a violent God who punishes the wicked with internal torture beyond imagination and is Holy, just, and loving in doing so. Some, wanting to kind of disconnect God from it all use statements like, “God doesn’t send anybody to hell, they chose it.” For so many years, I used statements just like that.

But then I realized, that’s like me creating a fire-pit in my backyard, determining it to be a place my kids could go if they don’t believe and act correctly, and then say, as I shrug my shoulders while they scream as their skin melts for all eternity, “Well, I didn’t send them there, they chose it.”  Really? My parental hands are clean, free and clear?

Fortunately, this view of hell as being outside the influence and sustainment of God meets the buzz saw of scripture in passages such as…

“The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.” – Revelation 14:10  KJV

 “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” – Psalm 139:8   KJV

In both these passages, the concept of hell is described as being a reality that is IN the the presence of God.

Ruh, roh, Scooby.

Hell is not God doing something contrary to His nature (love), rather doing more of it.

Here is where we come to the interesting issue of God’s wrath.  It is widely asserted that God’s wrath is the aspect of God that is violent and angry, and desires and executes retribution upon disbelieving humanity.  It is God’s wrath that justly punishes the unrighteous.

However, a deeper look reveals something completely different.

The Greek word for “wrath” in the New Testament is the word “Orge”

Unfortunately, the way this word has been translated has been shaped greatly by our pre-existing concepts of God as being angry and temperamental.

The word “orge” actually means  “any intense emotion” it’s where we get words like  “orgy” and “orgasm” from.

It has to do with a very strong passion, not even associated to anger.  In fact, the root of “orge” actually means “to reach out in a straining fashion for something that you long to possess.” 

What if the wrath of God is not God pouring out anger and vengeance, or retaliation, but rather furious love; grasping, reaching, shaking to possess every person that they might experience His Grace? Wow, now there is a revelation!

Now for some, that is going to feel like wrath. Why? Because there is nothing more torturous than to be loved by someone who you don’t want to be loved by. To be given love when you don’t want it. To be given Grace when you want no part of it. In all truthfulness, that’s hell.

In fact, the writer James articulates in the Bible that when you love your enemies, it’s as if you were pouring out heaping coals of fire over their heads.

The wrath of God isn’t an expression of God’s hate and contempt, but rather a furious, passionate expression of His love and Grace, reaching, grasping for people to experience His love.

God is not schizophrenic, God is not hate and love at the same time.

Daniel 7:10 refers to a river of fire that flows out from thrown of God. What is that? It’s the white hot love of God.

See, the same sun that hardens clay melts wax. Some people will experience the furious, pure love of God as hate, because they hate being loved by God, they hate pure Grace, trusting in His Grace.

The presence of God is the same. When Moses first met with God being present in a cloud to receive the 10 commandments, he saw that experience as one of glory; a powerful, positive opportunity. Yet, the other people who witnessed that same cloud saw it as an experience of fear. Why? Because they didn’t believe and rebelled against the goodness of God.

Paradise is the love of God, wherein is the enjoyment of all blessedness… I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love. For what is so bitter and vehement as the punishment of love? -St. Isaac the Syrian

So what is hell?

Hell is an eternal existence in the presence of God who is love, furiously pouring out His love that all people might experience Grace. It is God (who is love) being God (pouring out more and more love), forever.  It is hell for some because they reject and despise Grace. They hate Jesus and His unconditional love. The same Grace and love that is heaven for many, is hell for some.  The difference is in belief. The difference is in heart.

“The flames of heaven will be hotter for some than the flames of hell could ever be”  -Dallas Willard

It’s interesting that in truth you can’t reject Grace. You can’t stop it’s presence, pursuit, favor, or blessings over your life. You can only love or not love it. Loving, believing, trusting Grace fills your life with heavenly rest. Not loving, believing, and trusting Grace serves to fill your life with hellish frustration and angst. It never leaves you, you can never leave it. Only love it, or not.

God never changes. He is love.

I love how Robert Capon states it…

“Grace is the celebration of life, relentlessly hounding all the non-celebrants in the world.”   -Robert Capon

 

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