HEAVEN & HELL
(lol this post is almost as long as the eternity of the subject.. but hopefully not 'Hell' to read)
This has become a HOT TOPIC (insert pun here) in the Christian Community lately. This discussion has even been covered in Time magazine on whether Hell exists. Providing fuel for this 'hot enough to damn' article was Rob Bell's new book 'Love Wins'.
Ok, the last time I simply mentioned Rob Bell's name in an email and a note on facebook that I heard him live at a Q & A session here in town.. I was not only warned about Rob Bell being a heretic, but also had one person tell me that was the most idiotic post I ever made ( which I beg to differ as I am confident I have been more idiotic posts ), and several unsubscribed from my daily emails, and quit following me in facebook.
It was interesting that the mere mention of Rob Bell brought on this affect without me endorsing him in any form. Since then I finished his book 'Love Wins' and while I respect those who are concerned with anyone watering down God's unchanging truth.. I did not find he was guilty of any such heresy.
If I only read the reviews and warnings of others regarding Rob Bell it is clear many believe he is at the very least a universalist (does not believe in Hell), and at worst a preacher misleading those who follow his teachings. BUT.. instead of following the views of others, I thought I would prayerfully plod along like I have my whole life and form my own opinions.
I must admit, as I was reading there were a couple times when I thought.. Uh oh.. here we go.. I am about to read what all the fuss is about.. BUT.. I don't recall one time that I could say what he wrote regarding God's Love, Heaven, and or Hell was contrary to the scriptures. He does raise questions that NO ONE has answers BUT these questions can only be answered by God.
Rob Bell does NOT discount a personal relationship with Jesus Christ but instead implores this is critical in knowing the whole of God's message.. and the completion of God's love story for mankind. He definately raised questions regarding Heaven on Earth, and the 'what ifs' and 'how wills' of God's judgement. But all his questions are wrapped in the undeniable truth the God loves us and he gave us the free will choice to accept his perfect loving grace and forgiveness or hopelessly go our own way.
I believe the statement that gets many to pick up stones is that Rob Bell believes given enough time.. God's love would melt almost the coldest selfish heart. It is just his theory and for some to argue this this makes Rob Bell as a heretic in my opinion has no teeth. The other point he makes is one we all have said at one time or another ( but never in a book ) .. If God's love is so perfect, you are telling me that just because they did not recite the sinners prayer to the satisfaction of some of us.. that these people will spend ETERNITY TORMENTED IN ETERNAL FLAMES? For this question to be raised is NOT questioning almighty God, but questioning our understanding of his ways, and in this case the area of judgment which honestly God did not ask for our help. I must admit on this sobering thought of God judging the unsaved so harshly I don't understand that reasoning, BUT use the old Christian trump card that I trust God to judge fairly... and even a slow learner like me realizes.. I am not God.
But let's not bicker about who likes Rob and who does not.. the topics of Heaven and Hell are realities recorded in God's word... but before I go any further let's all get a grip on the fact that most of God's word is the story of God's personal relationship with his creation. It is the story of how we should live and love and really.. LEAVE THE JUDGING TO GOD.. even though it seems to be a favorite pasttime of believers and non-believers alike.
So let's start out real basic here.
- HEAVEN .. good. HELL.. bad. hmmm, could I offer a bit more specific?
- HEAVEN .. located in the clouds with streets of Gold, white robes, halos, with angels landing and departing to and from the Pearly Gates International Airport.
- HELL .. located in the land downunder (not Australia).. with images of eternal flames and oppressive heat.. .. but good news is .. it's a dry heat?
- HEAVEN .. The kingdom of God, and the eternal home for His children.
- HELL.. the dark kingdom owned and operated by a man in red tights, horns in his head, and wielding a pitchfork. The tennants are those who chose with their God given free will to go it on their own.. to ignore the love of their creator.
- HEAVEN ON EARTH .. We are called to pray (in the Lord's Prayer) for His kingdom to come, but also for His will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.. lest we be classified as 'so Heavenly minded we are no earthly good'.
- HELL ON EARTH .. found in the evil and dark totally void places in our minds and hearts where God is absent from. Pornography, the addictive world of drugs and alcohol. Hell on Earth is found in families where true verbal, physical, and sexual abuse are present. War, poverty, racism & hatred are all actions and beliefs void of God. Truly Greed is Hell on Earth as Jesus spoke to the Rich man to give up his weath and follow him... because possessions have no place in Heaven. Greed is about self and is void of God's two greatest commandments to love God and care for others.
I confess my Back Pew version of Heaven with clouds, mischevious angels, pearly gates complete with gate keepers with attitudes is thankfully not accurate. Also my Back Pew Hell is a weak picture where we find silly images with the backdrop of pitchforks, and flames, and a world of logic turned upside down. The demons are like Oscar the grouch on steroids, but in BPHell they are often found to be more bumbling than cunning.
There was a Sci-Fi Horror movie I watched years ago ( I know, I know.. shame on me ) called Event Horizon where a spaceship used a black hole portal that accidenty traveled to another dimension which was Hell. Again I know shame on me.. BUT there was one line in the movie that truly haunted me when one of the characters came back from Hell with the words.. "Hell is only a word, the reality is much much worse." While I am not taking my beliefs of Hell from any movie.. that line.. sums up my feelings regarding Hell... and Back Pew cartoons do not.
I believe Heaven is the Kingdom of God and the future home for all who choose to accept HIs free gift of grace.. and is beyond our present senses to comprehend HOW GOOD IT WILL BE. In contrast..
I believe Hell is the ending place for those who misuse the great gift of
free will to reject God. The dimension of Hell whether it be literal or figurative flames is existence for the first time completely void of God's presence.
How judgement all plays out is in the Hands of God. I believe in a God of perfect love, and as Rob Bell says in the end.. God's Love wins! This does not mean all will choose God and all will go to Heaven because I do no see anywhere that this philosophy is biblical.. BUT for God to offer us the free will choice is the foundation of God's perfect love.
With our free will to choose God we are on the path of understanding that does not end in this life. To reject God with this same free will is beyond tragic.
There are so many very real questions that we as believers do not really know the answer to regarding Heaven and Hell, but God's perfect Truth and Love surrounds this topic. To not have this topic all figured out is ok... it just falls into the long list of topics our minds cannot in this life truly grasp... but be assured God is fair and God loves perfectly.
I accepted Jesus into my heart in the Back Pew of a little white country church in Cable Wisconsin at the age of 6. To be honest I had this picture of Jesus in my physical heart like the picture in my bible so I was neither a budding theologian or physician, BUT this was the very real start to my faith journey no matter if any of you approve of this.
Then there is the thief on the cross who did not recite any sinners prayer with Jesus on that first Good Friday. Instead he simply asked Jesus to remember him when he is in Heaven. Jesus replied truly, today you will be with me in paradise. Whew.. talk about the king of all 'skin of your teeth' salvation moments.. BUT.. this thief's simply request of Jesus would not fall neatly into many churches idea of a 'proper confession'. He would not score a minimum of 70% on Heaven's Entrance exam. He may never have attended church.. He was a sinner, a thief and the only smart decision he may have made in his whole life was to as Jesus to remember him. What you mean he was never baptized, spoke in tongues, or even memorized John 3:16?
Then the topic of 'The age of accountability' is an idea of man to deem God as just when it comes to those children who have not yet accepted Jesus into their hearts as defined by the church. Age of accountablity is truly concept of today's church in my opinion but I do not believe the Bible addresses this topic except to say God is loving and fair. It kind of puzzling the church is more open to accept an 'age of accountability' concept than it is to accept Rob Bell pondering the greatness of God's love.
What about the faithful Jew at Jesus time who never knew of Jesus Christ for him or her to 'accept Jesus into their hearts'. Do they go to Heaven? or are they labeled... STBY (stinks to be you).
There are more scenarios that the church ponders as we 'HELP' God with the whole judging process. I am sure God is very busy and appreciates our help (insert sarcastic roll of eyes here).
What I do believe is.. Heaven is where I want to be. I don't plan on getting there by the inspiration of working through a list of DOs and DON'TS but instead the more I understand the greatness of God's love and am inspired in turn to love God and care for others. I should then be faithful in sharing the whole story of God. Summed up in one sentence by a man who colors for a living is this..
God the creator of this world has been lovingly involved with his creation since the beginning as recorded in our Bibles.. and the whole story of God's love was completed with Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospels.
This is the whole story the whole world needs to know and we are called to share.