Monday, 23 November 2009

I wish this wasn't in the bible but....

How many times have we heard well meaning preachers, when confronted with exegeting a passage on the eternal punishment of the wicked, say something like "Now I wish this part wasn't in the Bible. I wish it wasn't true, but it's there, and I have to preach it." Such an expression is ungodly and wicked.

It is ungodly because it betrays unbelief in the righteousness of God. The eternal punishment of the wicked is absolutely just. It is just, because our father Adam longed for eternal life without the giver of life (Gen. 3:10). It is just, because Adam believed the devil rather than God (Gen. 3:6). It is just, because we are Adam's children (Gen. 5:3). It is just, because God has continually showered the good gifts of natural creation upon his ungrateful creatures who have continued to hate him (Matt. 5:45). It is just, because every expression of the thoughts of our hearts are only evil continually (Gen. 6:5). It is just, because even our best deeds (never mind our idolatry, murders, genocides, rapes, lies, adulteries, occult practises, gossipping, greed) are like filthy tampons (Isi. 64:6). God's eyes are so pure (Habb. 1:13) that even when he looks upon our best deeds, our humanitarian efforts, our charity work, etc, all he sees is actions dripping with menstrual blood. It is just, because we killed the second Adam, God's dear Son, for daring to challenge our sin (Luk. 20:13). It is just, because God could have annihilated creation long before now, but he didn't. In his great mercy he has prolonged the day of salvation and still mankind rages on in rebellion (2 Cor. 6:2, 2 Pet. 3:9).

Not only is such a sentiment ungodly, but it is wicked. It fails to love what God loves and hate what he hates. When God's people are born into the new covenant, he writes his laws upon their hearts (Heb. 8:7-13). No longer is the law booming from outside to fearful sinners who can't keep it (Heb. 12:18). Now, having been fulfilled in Christ, it becomes the heart of the new believer through the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). To hate final judgement is to be ambivalent about sin and therefore, about God and the agony Christ suffered. It is to hate the law that is supposedly engraved on the believers' heart. No, the Christian loves the law; even the sentences against sin that it pronounces (Rom. 1:32).

So when the Christian reads of God's judgement in Scripture, he finds with Ezekiel that even God's words of 'lament and mourning and woe' (Eze. 2:9) taste 'as sweet as honey' (Eze. 3:3). Indeed, when God judges the earth, the cry of God's people isn't, along with Brian McLaren, a pietistic lament that attempts to sound more compassionate than God. No, they sing hymns rejoicing in the righteousness and goodness of God's judgement (Rev. 19:1-3). Can you imagine one of our boyband worship leaders penning a hymn about the destruction of the whore of Babylon with a chorus going: "Oh Babylon, gonna get some shocks. God's gonna dash your babies heads on rocks." (Ps. 137:9)?

While the Christian never takes delight in the death of the wicked (Matt. 23:37, Eze. 18:32), and while he yearns for those who don't know Christ and are headed for destruction (Rom. 9:1-5), he still has a correlating sense of sweetness and joy in the doctrine of eternal punishment.

4 comments:

Steve said...

Nick,

The back stepping is a problem. But I wonder, as ungodly as it is, if some of it is a pushback on the brutalizing of sinners, which is equally ungodly. It has always seemed to me that a love for justice isn’t the same as a lust for vengeance.

Nick Mackison said...

Sure. I reckon a lot of the guys who speak the way I mentioned in the post tend to hail from fundamentalist/hell-fire-is-fab backgrounds.

Rick Lannoye said...

The believer "still has a correlating sense of sweetness and joy in the doctrine of eternal punishment"! Seriously???

No, sorry, but the reason some believers have trouble with Hell is because they've actually read everything else Jesus had to say about God's nature, and they are wondering why there is such a direct contradiction between his core message about a God who wants to relieve suffering and the one who delights in it!

The truth is that Jesus did not believe in Hell; he could not have.

I've actually written an entire book on this topic--"Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell," (for anyone interested, you can get a free ecopy of my book at my website: www.thereisnohell.com), but if I may, let me share one of the many points I make in it to explain why.

If one is willing to look, there's substantial evidence contained in the gospels to show that Jesus opposed the idea of Hell. For example, in Luke 9:51-56, is a story about his great disappointment with his disciples when they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: "You don't know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!" Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.

So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn BILLIONS of people for an ETERNITY!

True, there are a few statements that made their way into the gospels which place Hell on Jesus’ lips, but these adulterations came along many decades after his death, most likely due to the Church filling up with Greeks who imported their belief in Hades with them when they converted.

Nick Mackison said...

Rick, you're talking nonsense, and the fact that you have to take a pair of scissors to Scripture to justify your point speaks volumes.