Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Awfulness of Life Reflects the Awfulness of Hell

I was taken to task by a commenter a little while ago about my assertions concerning hell and its purpose. Hell is an unpleasant and an unpopular topic--as difficult to talk about as it is to hear about. Perhaps as a result, there is not enough cold-blooded, biblically-accurate, analytical teaching on the subject. It requires a certain bluntness and fearlessness if one is to deal with it sufficiently and effectively. I've given it a shot before on this blog, but I think I need to visit it again.

The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said that creation can reveal quite a bit about the person of God, particularly in regard to his power and the unchanging attributes of his divine nature. When I look at creation, even though I see exquisite natural beauty, I also see overwhelming ugliness. I see people die agonizing, untimely deaths; I see a tooth and claw natural realm which fights the living staying alive at every turn. If storms and quakes don't swallow the living whole, there's always sharks in the ocean (or on Wall Street) who'll get the job done. It's rough out there!

It's not at all unusual to find people who think life is unfortunate and unjust, and who associate those characteristics with the God behind it all. For some Christians, the most immediate response to such thoughts is that there is someone other than God working such mischief. Really, what does that solve? God is the creator of that mischief-maker too, so he's still on the hook for the way things are. The truth is that there's no avoiding responsibility for what is when one is omnipotent!

Folk treading water in the swamp that is life may think that things are terrible and unfair, and blast the Creator for making it so, but from God's perspective life is anything but. The God who sees all, knows all, and is everywhere would be doing himself and all he has made a disservice to allow what he knows is not right to exist. That may seem to necessitate the instant annihilation of anything that steps out of harmony with God, but that would miss God's ultimate, and ultimately righteous, redemptive purposes in creation. Instead, God has ordained that fallen creation take a slow spiral down to a crash and burn, which is the milieu of all that lives in the here and now, and then after the crash will come the appointed judgment.

Would it be better for everything here in life to be hunky-dory, totally blind to God's perspective on sin and the sinners of this world, only to have them surprised by the furies of hell afterwards? If life was pleasant, just, and right, we would never give God a second thought. We would never consider our death and suffering and its meaning and never know we were at odds with an eternal, ominscient God who can't pretend nor just forget. We'd live idyllically to a ripe, old age and die, and then, pow, be hit in the kisser with everlasting fires of eternal punishment.

We may find this life of suffering and death frustrating and unfair, but if life was going to continue for some measured time after the introduction of sin, it was actually good of God to give us at least a sensored preview of hell. The awfulness of life is a prophylactic demonstration of the utter awfulness of hell. Life is not meant to demonstrate that all is well in the world and that God is in his heaven, but that God is at odds with sinful humanity and his fury over it is white-hot. 

The only question that matters is whether or not the trailer has gotten your attention enough to take steps to avoid it?