Friday, July 20, 2012

The Shocking Truth About Hell

     I loathe the subject of Hell. It is dark and uncomfortable, dismal and terrifying. The only people who like to talk about hell, I think, are self-righteous pharisees who derive some twisted sense of justice and satisfaction at the thought of the wicked going there. I am not one of those people, for I am infinitely aware of the fact that I deserve Hell as much as the most wicked sinner. However, in spite of my aversion to the subject, I recently saw Hell and its inhabitants in a new light, and it shocked me. Thus, I am discussing Hell with you, the reader. I hope it shocks you too, and causes you to consider the facts I am about to present very closely. I will dispose of the suspense; the truth I came to realize is this: Hell is filled with people who asked to be in such a place.
     Before you decry me as one of those cold and heartless zealots who declare "they deserve to be there", let me explain. First off, I am not referring to people who die without having ever known that Christ even existed, let alone who He was and is. I, in point of fact, do not know what happens to those people; God is judge and His judgement is righteous and just. I am referring to the people who were offered salvation and refused it; the atheist who shook his fist at heaven and blasphemed God, the man who was content with his sin and had no desire to change, the woman who was convinced she was a good person on her own, the scoffing agnostic who wasn't sure if God existed, and didn't care if He did. Those sad people, who in a moment's time stepped into the darkness of death and crossed into the agony of Hell, wanted to be in such a place.
    "How can you even think that?", you may ask."How could you be such a heartless monster as to think that anybody would want to be tormented for eternity instead of live in a mansion of gold? How dare you spit on the grave of the lost?" If that is indeed your reaction, your righteous indignation is wasted, for I do not rejoice in these facts at all; rather I regret that they chose so wrong a path. Dear reader, think of Hell as the anti-Heaven. What is heaven like? Never mind the streets of gold and mansions and loved ones gone before (while these thoughts are lovely, they are secondary pleasures), but think of the true beauty of Heaven. The true beauty of Heaven is indisputable: it is the pure, uninhibited, unfiltered glory of the presence of God. The bliss, the peace, the rest, and even all the secondary pleasures I mentioned before flow out of this one truth, that in Heaven we see the Triune God as He is! Heaven is Heaven, in fact, because Jesus is there! We are freed from sin, its temptation and its effects by God's holy presence! It is that which I most long for in this life! Freedom from every effect and side effect of sin; freedom from misconceived views of God, freedom from the pain sin brings, freedom from that which robs me of the peace and love of Christ, and in Heaven, when once we gaze into the face of Christ, freedom is instantaneous and absolute and unchanging! That is what Heaven is, and it is that Heaven (not angels on clouds strumming harps and other such drivel that has distorted Heaven's glory) which we all ought to long for.
     I asked you to think of Hell as the anti-Heaven, and this is what I mean: in spite of all the torments of Hell (the tender conscience, the regret, the unquenchable fire), Hell's greatest torment is that God's presence cannot be found anywhere. He does not slake the thirst of its inhabitants, He does not soothe the conscience of the penitent, for, in Hell, after seeking for their whole lives to be rid of the nuisance of God, the unbelieving is finally free from Him. However, in freeing themselves from God they learned the truth, though too late, that all that is good and beautiful and kind and sweet that exists in this universe, comes from the God they sought so desperately to avoid. It breaks my heart to write these words, for they are true and the greatest tragedy in the universe. Hell is the place the unrepentant and and unbelieving seek and  live for with a greater devotion than the believing have for Heaven, and they go there willingly.
    You may be wondering why I am saying all of this, what is my point, what does this help. My point is simple: for the unbelieving, what you think you want only leads to unspeakable pain and suffering, both in this life and the next, and to the agnostic and the Christian who's faith is wavering, do not doubt God's love and mercy because of Hell, for it is not only the just reward of all who reject Him, but is, in fact, what they wanted all along. I want to dispel some of my own doubt and aversion (with which I have an ongoing struggle) of "a God who would do that", as is so often stated by those who refuse to see God's love, choosing only to see His wrath. Justice is necessary, required by God's own law and God's own nature, and there are only two paths of justice: through the atonement of Christ's death, and though the recompense of sin in Hell. Harsh, unpopular words they may be, but they are true and must be said. God sends no one there gleefully, and He derives no enjoyment from it. God did not create Hell for man, but for Satan and his angels; man chooses to go there by rejecting a God who would give His only Son to save him from it. He has done everything possible to provide a way of escape in Christ. The reality of Hell is not meant to save people, the love of God is. Show the lost the love of God in Christ's sacrifice, in His long-suffering, in His grace, and tell the truth of Hell, that it is real and that it is not the place of freedom they think that it is. Show them the freedom in God, the true freedom, not the false liberty in "freedom" from God. Let God's love shine like a beacon of hope, a call to safety and freedom. Do not doubt his love because of Hell; bask in His love in Christ.
     The shocking truth about Hell is that it is a choice.