Monday, December 20, 2010

Verses that everyone thinks is in the Bible- Part I

“A loving God would never send anyone to Hell.”

This is a hope filled verse and technically its true. Why wouldn’t we want to canonize this statement and pin it to the Almighty Lord of love? We are his children after all. Plus, Hell is such an awful description that no religion trying to gain converts should associate with it. Even purgatory would be a better guess.

Example I: Dante's Inferno

Here’s why this verse does not contend with Biblical scripture. Getting rid of Hell is not a rational answer. Jesus speaks about Hell more than any destination in the Gospels. He claims that Hell is like a nasty smelling trash dump (Gehanna). He claims that the body can suffer in Hell for not repenting of their lust. He directly reports that God will separate the lambs from the goats (the goats get the bad petting zoo). Hell is for that guy who spits at his brother in hatred or the guy who hordes too much money. Finally, in his pep talk, Jesus claims that the church will fight against the gates of Hell.

The apostles carry on this theology with Peter claiming that false prophets will get the worst level of Hell (Tartarus). John has a vision of the followers of the cult of the false prophet getting burned forever in a lake of sulfur.

In the Old Testament, Heaven and Hell are not quite developed in theology, but the followers fear the place of shades (Sheol).

Getting rid of Hell is not a biblical option.

Well that’s dumb! You think all God has to do is say, “no Hell” and suddenly the big fiery pit in the ground dries up. I mean, if God is so darn willing to save us all, why doesn’t he just crash the Hell party and kick everyone out.

Or perhaps you think God loves the idea of sending people to Hell.  He is like a cosmic grandma who catches her grandchildren sitting on the couch without the plastic covering.  She then wigs out and refuses to speak to you forever and puts poison in your macaroni when you come over for dinner..

Hell is not a place of suffering for those who have been really bad. You won’t go down there and see Hitler being tickle tortured, while Mussolini is being force fed black licorice. This is not just the land of child molesters and people who rip tags off of mattresses. Hell is a place for EVERYONE!

Before you light your pitchfork on fire, hear me out.

It happened in a garden. When Eve and Adam committed the first no-no before their Heavenly father, something new was created. A gigantic rift between God and his people. It was the first time in history that people could not knock on the Almighty’s door and just have some tea and conversation. The lack of obedience caused a new option: humanity in direct opposition with perfect nature. Darkness instead of light. Disorder instead of organization. Truth be told, Adam and Eve were the first ones to use the world incorrectly and it tipped the scales in favor of chaos. But wait….? Can’t God just make them say sorry and both laugh about it later. Isn’t Hell a bit of an overreaction?

Adam: Remember God when we ate fruit from that tree we were not supposed to eat?
God: (chuckles) Yea, you kids were crazy. It was a good thing I forgave you instead of freaking out.
Adam: Oh yea, you were quite miffed. I’m really glad you didn’t make that eternal torture chamber.

Favorite Hymn on the theology of Hell

It’s not that easy. We are talking a total breakdown of law causing a ripple effect through time. This is like the butterfly effect on crack! The presence of sin on day one has been a shock wave through us like a spiritual cancer. This is not saying sorry to Ms. Fogarty for peeing on her flowers. We can forgive each other easily and not care about it because easy forgiveness doesn’t cost anything. Even if the forgiveness is emotionally difficult it can still be done between humans.  This divine forgiveness costs something. Like a criminal who breaks the law, a good judge must do something about it or be forced to make an exception against greater nature. When God’s children break from perfection, an orderly and organized God must do something about it. That fate is Hell: the place of chaos, the place of disorder, the opposite of God's intentions. The other option would be to repeal free will and use us all like puppets. That option was on the table, but God was not a big fan of it.

Angel 1: So I am thinking we can make your creations come with pull strings and marionettes so they are easier to control.
God: How about we let them go crazy and choose wrong versus right?
Angel 1: Ha ha ha ha ha…oh man you are such a kidder…wait what?

More modern illustration on Hell

But here’s the truth. God doesn’t want to do the inevitable. Just because his children gave him the spiritual middle finger doesn’t mean God has to be the mean judge. In fact, this is exactly why Jesus was sent. Jesus downgraded his Heaven flesh for a full on skin suit and played human for 33 years. He had a three year Earth ministry and got a retirement cross for all his troubles. But before you go into cross assassination conspiracies, Jesus claims to have willfully walked on death row. His reason, to switch places with us in Hell. If forgiveness costs something, Jesus decided to be the thing that it costs.  He became the Adam and Eve punishment that we were supposed to get. It sounds crazy, right?

Satan: What the crap? What are you doing here, Jesus?
Jesus: I’m trading places with those who are supposed to go here.
Satan: Ha! Did you get into the cat’s medicine? No one should want that.
Jesus: What can I say? I’m a sucker for the flesh walkers. Don’t worry, I’ll be out of your hair in three days.

You see, we do have a loving God and he does not want anyone to go to Hell. Anyone who would go to such great lengths to send Jesus to Earth to die in our stead, is either a sick person by far or strictly engaged in seeing us thrive. I could go on and on about Jesus’ crucifixion and its importance for us sinners, but I will leave you with this: someone love’s you enough to stop the inevitable from happening.

P.S. I made this article very light and quite humorous, but I understand the seriousness of this place.  My point was not to belittle Hell with humor, but to raise up God's loving agenda through Jesus.  A lot of articles make people feel very little and caged when talking about Hell.  My intent was to invite the viewer in to God's whole plan.  That is a topic of great joy.

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