The idea that God sends people to hell, illustrates how completely corrupted our view of God and His plans for mankind really are. God’s greatest desire is to restore unity between Himself and His creation. This unity was broken by man and not God. YetGod does not condemn men to hell…rather He devised a Redemption plan that cost him dearly. Men choose hell for themselves.. Mankind has the free will to accept God’s provision for him or reject it, therefore, if he ends up in hell, it is by his own choice.
Hell, simply put, is the absence of the presence of God. The antithisis of this is a close intimate relationship with God through His Holy Spirit. The Bible is quite descriptive of the fact that men will be tortured, but we really cannot know what the place is like, because no one has ever come back to tell us. However, we do have some glimpses of both heaven and hell in this world.” The damned,” says CS Lewis, ” will only find the earth, in retropsect ,to have been part of hell, while heaven will work backwards into the life of the believer so that he will say “We have always lived here.””. You can see hell right here on earth. When the presence and support of God is missing, the human’ emotional and mental health suffers. An earthly existance without God is just as much hell, as an eternity without Him. Those who trust in, rely on and adhere to Christ will find joy even in the most trying circumstance on earth…a little slice of heaven.
Perhaps it is time to be truthful with ourselves, and with one another. Mankind is totally helpless in the face of most natural disasters, death, illness, and monetary loss.. We have trouble contolling our emotions and relationships, much less the outside physical forces, that prey upon us. We simply have to admit from the very start that we are not “gods” as so many of us suppose. We are finite created beings that experience a beginning and an end. I will not debate the how of this here and now, suffice to say that man did not create himself, nor is there any evidence that he will be able to sustain himself indefinately.
The Bible states in Genesis 1-3 that we are made in God’s image and that God himself breathed the His breath of life into us. It also states that God physically walked in close fellowship with our human parents, and they had total acceptance, security and significance. that is until a beautiful creature deceived and enticed our mother, Eve, into sinning…first by discrediting God and then by suggesting to her that she could actually be like “god” by her own power. With her choice to “eat the fruit”, “sin” entered the earthly paradise, and the first humanist was born.
Scripture tells us that when Adam and Eve sinned, they literally cut themselves off from God’s presence and died spiritually. (Romans 7:7-11) A Spiritually alive being cannot have close unity with the dead, so no relationship was possible with God at that point. Jesus even spoke of this when one of His disciples asked to bury his father before following Christ…to which Jesus replied…”let the dead bury their dead”. (Matt 8:22). This was a picture of the true spiritual condition of those who choose not to follow Him…a distinction between the two possible conditions of a man’s spirit. In the book of Revelation it says that in the end “Death and Hades” will be thrown into the lake of fire. Websters definition of Hades is a holding place for the dead. For our pupose…the spiritually dead. “Sin” is the catalyst causing our spiritual death, but what is sin anyway?
Many suppose that “sin” simply means that one breaks a “rule”, and the debate over this issue has produced an endless torrent of prattle fraught with presumptions that since rules are “man made” they are, therefore, irrelevant. That is simply not true. In the Mosaic Covenant with Israel, God revealed that which we call the Ten Commandments or the Law, and they have been a problem for man ever since. These “rules’ are merely a standard that tutors us as to who God actually is. Their purpose is to guide a people who had spent four hundred years as slaves in an idolatrous nation, and to show the “sinfulness” of sin. (Romans 7:1-8:2) God has revealed himself as the Standard of absolute truth. Christ is the physical embodiment of this Standard and by his Life working in and through us, He makes it possible for us to obey and reflect God’s image and thereby His Glory. The problem is that Man is rebellious, desiring instead to define his own reality and create his own truth.
Consider this quote by William Gurnall who wrote “The Christian in Complete Armor”
“The philosophy called humanism has long been a suitor to man’s pride. It boasts in his natural strength and wisdom, and woos him with promises of grand accomplishments now, and heaven later. God Himself has scattered such Babel-builders and proclaimed His preeminence for eternity. Confounded forever be such sons of pride, who trust in the power of nature as though man with his own brick and mortar of natural abilities was able to make a way to heaven”
This was written in 1655, and it still resonates for us today, especially in regard to the youth culture. In fact, it also was prevelant in ancient times, as Gurnell so eloquently points out. The Deceiver has been spreading this malicious lie that men can be “gods” since the beginning of the world, and in modern times, it’s poisen has mushroomed, spreading venom like a volcanic cloud. Man, believing that his knowledge rivals God’s, attempts to run his own life,and make his own laws in order to restore paradise to earth in his own name. Well, good luck with that. We are no closer to paradise today as when Adam and Eve were thrown out of the garden.
The relativist of today shares the same view of truth that was held by Pontius Pilate. Pilate believed in his heart that Rome, built by man’s ingenuity, would stand forever. History, in retrospect, reveals a different outcome. How many of our politicians, business moguls and movie stars discover too late that truth will not be denied, and being out side of it brings suffering and pain. The entertainment culture is imploding because when you reach the pinnacle of a career and still do not find fulfillment, there is nothing left but a head on collision with despair. The truth is that men cannot govern fairly, because each man thinks his own ideas should have pre-eminence. In case you don’t know it…Rome fell, and we will as well.
CS Lewis’ answer to the idea of mankind creating his own laws is the following;
“Man’s reason is not always operational, for at the moment we create such laws our reason may be effected by strong emotions as when we are drunk or in love. In addition, greed and avarice often play a central role in the creation of such laws.”
Lewis believed that man cannot possibly develop laws by his own instinct, because at any given time one or more of his instincts may be in opposition to one another. In fact, his position was that the very fact that we argue about who is right and who is wrong, proves that we are appealing to some “third thing”a set of rules governing behavior that we all agree exists, and a standard who’s origin is outside humanity; eminating from heaven itself. He believed that if there were no such set of rules, we would then be left with fisticuffs to settle our differences, hardly something that even an evolutionist relativist would agree constitutes a change for the better.
The question remains…is sin merely breaking the rules and is that why men are condemned to Hell? The word “Sin” in the Greek literally means to “miss the mark” as an archer misses a target. The target in this case is that fact that humans were created to reflect God’s image and His goodness. When we miss that target, and reflect our own “glory” it diminishes His image in us. Since God is the Ultimate Creator and Artist, let’s take an example from the arts.
The purpose in artistic expression is to reveal the glory of the artist…to express that which the artist wishes to communicate. God, being the untimate Artist/Designer, must by his very nature create. We are His design and are meant to reflect His Glory. We are His workmanship, so to speak.
Isaiah 43:7 Everyone who is called by My name,
And whom I have created for My glory,
Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”
To understand what the verse means by “Glory” let us example two elements of God’s creation working in partnership for the purpose of creating beauty or “glory”. A crystal is in and of itself nothing, however, if you let the sun shine through a crystal, this humble stone, formed in the bowels of the earth reveals a glorious array of color. It is not the crystal’s talent or goodness, but the Sun’s light that accomplishes this. A secret aspect of our magnificent sun now reveals its “glory” in a myriad of color through that lowly crystal. By the same principle, Christ, the Son, shines through one of his reborn sons or daughters, each one being faceted differently in our personality and created by God as unique. Because of this , we can reveal a tiny portion of God’s Glory as Christ lives His life through us. As a group, we can be quite formidable. We were created to be unique in ourselves, yet equipped to reveal more about Almighty God to the world and perhaps the Universe. With this in mind, what, do you suppose might happen to that Glory, if His creation does not reflect what the Artist originally intended?
On a human level, let us example the Sculpture of David fashioned by Michalangelo. It is a statue chiseled in marble of the King of Israel as a shepherd boy. Michalangelo modeled David naked, stone in hand, poised to slay the wicked giant, Goliath. The statue is presented by the artist in a very specific way. This expression in this work of art, is unique to Michalangelo; his impression of King David. Michalangelo is in complete control of how the work is presented, for the simple reason that he is the artist! The finished work of the Statue of David is in reality, Michelangelo’s “glory”.
However, if “David” were to suddenly walk off of the marble base and don a pair of cut-offs, rebelling against the way the artist had created him, he would no longer be the “glory” of Michelangelo. The image would have “pilfered” or pirated the glory for itself; choosing to express itself in ways that the artist had not intended. He would “miss the mark”, or commit a “sin” against the artist. That is what happened to man in the Garden and is still happening every day. When we sin, we “express” ourselves in ways that are against God’s image in us.
In the same way, William Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet” stands as the expression of the famous playwrite’s innermost self. If during a performance, the character of Hamlet suddenly refuses to kill the King, deciding instead to forgive him, some might see that as a better ending. However, that is beside the point. The play “would be marred”, and would cease to be the expression of the author; it would become a corruption born of insurrection. Prince Hamlet, in making this change in the action of the play, would have committed a sin against the author. Hamlet didn’t create the play; he is merely a figment of Shakespeare’s imagination, just as we are. And that figment is now “tinkering” with with what Shakespear created, just as we are tinkering with God’s image.
The glory of Hamlet would suddenly cease to be Shakespeare’s idea, because the created character of Hamlet “missed the mark” of what Shakespeare was trying to convey, sinning against the artist. When we examine the concept of sin in this way, it is more easily understood. We can even see that all sin is equally damaging. There are no “little” changes in a piece of artwork, notwithstanding what an actor may bring to a part, however, unless channeled by author and director, an actor can ruin the glory of the work as well.
When an artist creates; the artist must dictate. (Isaiah 45:9) The creation was not asked to take a vote on how their form is presented, because it is the artist who originates the work. The creation is merely building on the work of another, and owes him due credit. Now, if a terrestrial artist, indeed, had a work of art capable of this kind of rebellion, he might for a time, try to correct it, but ultimately if the piece would not comply, it would be destroyed. Artist’s can be very touchy about their work. Yet, God, the Ulitmate Designer, did not destroy his prized creation. Instead, he willingly abandoned his throne, debased himself to live as a human in Jesus Christ, and then died as a common criminal in order to redeem what He created from the tryanny of it’s own pride. God left his throne to be a perfect sacrifice and then die in our place.
Christ was the first human to ever live a perfect life, reflecting the full Glory of God, and He, in fact, was God as well. By design, he was plagued with human weaknesses emotions and temptations…which He overcame only by God’s power. Romans 8:29 tells us that Christ is the first among many brothers. When one accepts Christ’s sacrifice ,and His Lordship, that person is born again. (John 3:16) He is given a new nature…a place in God’s family and the Holy Spirit enters him, sealing and empowering him to be a greater reflection of God in this world. We will succeed in this only as we trust and listen to what the Spirit and the Word tells us. We will never be perfect in this life, because we are not God, but we are being perfected and prepared for an eternal communion with God Almighty. This sanctification is what makes you “able” to live in heaven…the spiritually dead cannot live there. I would rather be a small part of God’s refelcted Glory than a smudgy little stain on the fabric of the Universe destined for damnation.
CS Lewis addressed the issue of hell and how one condemns oneself to it in his work “God in the Dock” by saying… “It’s not a question of God “sending us to Hell. In each of us there is something gropwing up which will of itself be Hell unless it is nipped in the bud.” One of Lewis’ favorite authors…George MacDonals had this to say on the subject… “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God will say, in the end ‘They will be done’. Without self choice, there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy or heaven will miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened…”
And this from CS Lewis “The Great Divorce”…”The whole difficulty of understanding Hell is that the thing to be understood is so nearly Nothing. But, ye’ll have had the experience…it begins with a grumbling mood, and yourself still distinct from it. perhaps criticising it. Ye can repent and come out of it again. But there may come a day when you can do that no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticise the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself going on forever like a machine. ”
Long before you ever choose God’s provision, you are preparing yourself for it. Should you choose it, you will then, be preparing yourself for a God-filled eternity, and each decision will count in a positive way. Once you have been redeemed, each decision you make to obey God will store treasure up for you that will last an eternity; a treasure that you can never lose. Romans 8:1 tells us that 1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set us free from the law of sin and death”
No one has to go to hell, if one can humble oneself and recognize his utter helplessness to be as perfect as God and he repents of his sin and turns away from evil, God will save Him. We must yield to the great Creator who wants to fullfill us…not condemn us.” All men can choose where they spend eternity, God does not send anyone to hell, but rather,beckons us home.