Wednesday, 20 February 2008

What is Hell?

There's been a lot of discussion about Hell recently and a thinking through what Hell is and isn't. Talking with a friend about it a couple of months ago sparked off a thought today (which I think I've thought before, but needed a refresher) while I was listening to The God Journey podcast this morning.
Wayne Jacobsen said that he didn't think salvation was about Hell and Heaven; that one of the major flaws is defining salvation as a determination of destiny, when salvation is actually being in relationship with Jesus - knowing Him =eternal life and being transformed out of a life of sin, into the life of Father. Heaven and Hell is the fruit of this, not the purpose of it.
So, that being true, not being saved means not knowing Jesus, which is why Jesus says,' For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light...'

So if we know Him, then we are already in Heaven; Heaven is being in Jesus... whether in the body or out of it, in this life or the next.

Hell is not being in Jesus...whether in the body or out of it, in this life or the next. I only have to remember what it was like to not know Jesus, with all the guilt and burden of selfishness that I had in me, the self-hatred and depression, to know what Hell is like.

Two weeks before I came to know the Lord, I had an experience which I can only now, later, describe in terms of John 16:8 - 'When He comes He will convict the world in regard to sin, righteousness and judgement'. A friend was praying for me in a language given by the Holy Spirit, and in an instant, I knew three things; that I was a sinner, that God is holy and righteous, and that I was due to be judged in Hell, and that this was RIGHT. There was no question in my mind of it not being fair. I could not question this judgement.

So I was desperate and all I could do was to run to the only One who could save me, the Righteous Judge Himself, Who had come to die in my place on the Cross for my sins, 2000 years before in Roman Palestine.

(Two weeks later the scales fell off my eyes and I believed. I can't explain how. I was reading 'Death of a Guru', by Rabi Maharaj and it was like I was thinking, if this Hindu, who is himself worshiped as an avatar of a Hindu god, can personally met Jesus and believe in Him, then so can I. I had always seen Him as a figure in a stained-glass window; heroic, but remote and impersonal. I loved the idea and thought of Him, but never knew that I could personally, really, know Him. In that moment, He was there, right near me, right in me. I 'knew' Him by experience. In that moment I knew that He was resurrected from the dead and the only way to the Father. I literally felt a great weight fall off my shoulders, felt as free as a bird, and rushing out of the college building where I had my room, into the damp, grey chill of a February afternoon, it was as if I was suddenly experiencing colour for the first time in my life. The old black, white and indeterminate grey of the old life were gone.)

So Hell is not what Jean Paul Sartre calls it; 'other people', although someone in Hell - in the absence of Jesus' - may probably think that he's right. ;)
Just as darkness is the absence of light and cold the absence of heat, death the absence of life, Hell is the absence of God in my life, now, or after I die, and, since it's a spiritual state, the expression of it in terms of physical flames and pain is immaterial. It's the only language we understand to express something so infinitely and unspeakably terrible, the state of being forever lost and without the One Who loves us so much that He was prepared to die and be lost for us.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Charles Wesley 1738

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