Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What The Hell Am I Saved From? What I Believe About Hell & Why (Pt 6)


Here I want to propose the arguments for the eternality of hell in a positive light.

First it is biblical (this should be enough):

Matt 25:30-41, 46 see also Isa 66:4
Mark 9:43, 48
Luke 16:22-24, 28
Rev 14:9-11; 19:3; 20:10-15…

Second it’s reasonable:

If God is an eternal being and we have sinned against that Eternal Being than it stands to reason that the just punishment for such a grievance is an eternal punishment. We however are guilty of more than one sin, indeed we are sinners are through and through and those myriad of sins are all against the eternal God (Ps 51) and therefore are worthy of a myriad of eternal punishment. There is indeed justice for God in the eternal damnation of sinners.

If God commands that we as his creation do not murder, that we do not snuff out life in this reality, then how can God, who created the law, not be subject to his own law and utterly destroy – annihilate, murder in completeness of the word – people? It would seem that in so acting God must be unjust and disobey his own decreed command and therefore not be perfect. In other words it would mean that God is in fact not God and therefore not worthy of glory, honor, praise, and eternal dominion.

Third it’s traditional orthodoxy:

I’ll be the first to tell you that just because something is traditional doesn’t mean it should be believed, you all know I’m a huge fan of the Reformation. But when it comes to orthodoxy these are areas, which must be believed in order to have the gospel in its full potency. It is a good practice to ask, “If this is doctrine is different or changed in any way does it change the gospel? And if so how?” If the gospel is changed than the new doctrine or changed doctrine should not be believed. Here, if hell is ending we loose much of the potency of the powerful redemptive work of Jesus. Rather than saving us for all times from the wrath of God on sin, he only saves from the wrath of God until the end of hell then after that… well that’s part of the question, what does happen to those in heaven after hell is over? Is Jesus’ death still effective? What happens to justification? What happens to redemption? What happens to salvation after hell has ended? Are we still the redeemed and if so what are we the redeemed from? Like the title of this post says, what the hell am I saved from?

On this note it is good to look at those who have believed this same doctrine, has history vindicated their names against those who have been proponents for other doctrines, names like St. Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, Peter and Paul. It is good to be in good company when believing certain difficult doctrines. Here, if one were to believe that hell has an end they would be in the company of Seventh Day Adventist or Jehovah’s Witnesses, which are both commonly, referred to as cults.

In the last post I want to point out what believing in the eternality of hell does for one’s Christian faith.

2 comments:

thatishouldgain said...

Sam,

I am not as well-versed in a robust theology of Hell as some might be, however, I did study a little when I preached a sermon series on Hell a couple years ago to address the issues raised by Rob Bell's book 'Love Wins.' I preached 3 sermons and they were from John 3, Luke 16, and Matthew 25. As for sources outside the Bible, Anthony Thiselton has recently written a book on the subject called Life After Death which deals with this, and N.T. Wright despite whether or not you like/dislike his Pauline theology actually has a great book on this subject Surprised by Hope. However, Wright primarily deals with 'life after life after death,' but challenges well many traditional views concerning death, Hell, and life after death that exist in culture and in churches which are not biblical.

I personally believe it is a challenging doctrine to understand and explain clearly, if we're being honest. The Bible teaches there is everlasting life for those who believe and trust in Jesus Christ, but there is everlasting damnation for those who do not and for those who fake their faith (hearers, not doers). The Bible is explicitly clear on that basic concept.

The challenge is understanding ultimately, as you've addressed a bit in your series, how the external reality of Hell where eternal damnation/punishment exists and from a loving God. The assumption in this argument is that a God of love does not punish or have any standards to justly punish sin. However, there is still the challenge of Revelation 21/22 where evil and sin will be completely defeated and God's perfect peace, 'Shalom,' takes precedence. Does that mean Hell is no more? Does that mean Hell is still ongoing but far removed? What does that mean?

I think when it comes down to the ethical issues of understanding God's goodness and justice and love in relation to the existence of Hell, Tim Keller has provided a great response to the age-old question in his book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. As for the question of what will happen to Hell, will it persist or come to an end? These are questions that I don't believe are answered in Scripture fully. We know punishment is unbelievably severe and everlasting for those who reject God, but that God will make an end of evil and sin forever. Sometimes, people assume wrongly that God's punishment is an evil, so I don't have an issue with whether or not Hell persists or consumes. I don't think the main point of the Bible is say everything about everything, but to reveal God and His plan of redemption to His people and the world, in Jesus Christ.

Sorry if I haven't been much help here in this series, but I think sometimes we can out of a desire to want to know everything about everything press bits of the Bible for every drop of an answer to the point that sometimes we're making lemonade from a lemon seed. Also, we can do the opposite of this and claim the Bible is just silent on all these things which likewise isn't true. The Bible speaks about Hell and punishment, but it doesn't necessarily answer all the questions we have. If it doesn't answer all our questions, perhaps we are not asking the right questions in regards to better understanding the Bible and God's revealed will for our lives. At the end of the day, I'm willing to say I believe Scripture that there is a 'new heaven and new earth' that will be one (Rev. 21-22), and there is a Hell (Mt/Lk/Jn). By God's grace, I believe in Jesus Christ and seek to order my life to His glory. My quest for knowledge will never be satisfied fully perhaps, but my quest for peace is satisfied in Jesus and I am quite alright with that.

Sam Morris said...

Thatishouldgain,

Thank you for this, I greatly appreciate your words. While I'm not sure I quite agree here with this topic, I do agree that God is far beyond us and as such we may know only parts of him - the parts that he has revealed - and those parts only partly (if he speaks universes out of his mouth he is far beyond all our minds that he made).

To quote you, "By God's grace, I believe in Jesus Christ and seek to order my life to His glory. My quest for knowledge will never be satisfied fully perhaps, but my quest for peace is satisfied in Jesus and I am quite alright with that." Indeed, peace has come by the blood of his cross.

It is apt to also note the aged - and wise - words of my dad here, "I tire quickly of philosphies trying to tame my God whose holding on me with unflinching ferocity." Hell's eternality makes God's ferocious hold even more satisfying and awe inspiring.