Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hell


Let’s get serious. Hell is not a place we want to talk about. It’s not a place we want to blog about. And, it’s certainly not a place we want to go.

Why the sudden interest in Hell? It has become a subject of thought for me as I get to experience what 109 degrees can feel like. I’m told it’s going to get even hotter, down her the Mex of Co.

Que Calor.

Now, I’m no expert on Hell, but the general opinion of the place is that it’s pretty hot. At least that was what I could remember. Was that just a speculation, like a red Devil with a pointy tail and pitchfork?

To find out, my google search this afternoon read, “Verses on Hell.” I made sure to check the verses with the actual Bible (you never can predict what Bible verses people are going to invent for the internet these days).

Here’s what I found out about Hell:

Jesus has the keys to Hell (Rev. 1:18)

Hell signifies extreme anguish and separation from God. (2 Sam. 22:6)

Hell is down. Heaven is up. i.e. “depths of hell” and “heights of heaven” (Job 11:8)

Hell is hot and is characterized by fire (Luke 16:23-25)

My mental image is this huge pit where spurts of fire (like the Fire Swamp in Princess Bride) randomly surface. It’s extremely hot with no relief by cold water, fans, or air-conditioner. There is also no relief from the feeling of anguish and aloneness. It’s the deepest, darkest place of depression with no pills or modern conveniences to provide distraction.

They call the little moments of extreme joy—the birth of a baby, the feeling of being in love, vacations to places we like to call paradise, or the deepest and most fruitful relationships—tastes of heaven. As heaven is usually contrasted with hell, I think it’s safe to say that the tastes of Hell we get to experience here on earth are the opposite as well. The feelings of fear, of loneliness, of pain and anguish; Places that are filled with rancid smells, defiled air, and unimaginable filth; Weather that’s brutally hot or unmercifully torrential. Such things are not just here to refine us and make us more holy. Such things are here to remind of what we’ve been saved from, what we’ll never have to experience in eternity.

Let’s switch gears a little bit. Just for fun, I like to quote Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice when I think about my relationships with most people: “There are few people whom I love and even fewer of whom I think well.”
I really don’t like most people. I have only a few close friends. There also are a few people who might consider me their enemy.  Please, ride this train with me a little while.

Even if I do have a couple enemies, I would never, ever, even in a million and one hundred years, wish for one of my enemies to go to a place like the one just described.

Christians are the only people who can have enemies that they love. Christians are the only people required to love their enemies. For the sake of clarification, you can love a lot of people that you don’t particularly like. You can like a lot of people whom you don’t particularly love. The difference between “love” and “like” can be confusing, but we’re not going to expound on that here. Just keep it in mind as we bring this baby to a close.

Is it possible that loving someone is really as simple as not wanting them to go to Hell?

Hell is the place where the life of people who are not in relationship with God ends. Eternal separation.

However, of the characteristics of Hell, the one that latched hold of me is the first one: Jesus holds the keys to Hell. The verse reads, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17-18 ESV)

Thoughts of Hell are depressing at their best, but this thought, the thought of Jesus conquering death and being the gatekeeper of Hell is, well, hopeful. That word seems so small and insufficient for what it signifies. Oh how I wish the English language could capture such a thought!

And I wish the English language could capture my thoughts. There are about 50 in my heart and mind right now.

A common prayer among Christians is that we would love what God loves and hate what God hates. I want my love for people to be infused with a love for God and a desire to see people love God, too. Because, I would hate for anyone that I loved to be in that place called Hell.




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