Hell Was Not My Idea

I didn’t invent hell and I have no power to send anyone there.
That’s a big reason why I don’t raise the topic with people.
Because, as soon as I bring it up,
someone accuses me of having some emotional investment in their eternal punishment
or
of condemning them to damnation
when none of that is true.
I didn’t dream up hell.
I don’t even want hell to exist.
Whenever I hear  a preacher or theologian announce he’s found a Biblical loophole and we all make it out of here eternally alive, I grab onto it like a refugee from the Titanic.
Let me hear what you’ve got, preacher! No hell? Excellent. Show me the money.
Whew! That was close. Such a relief to know it was all just a scary dream.
Oh, they’re out there – you can find them and follow them –
the preachers and teachers who say – “Don’t worry, be happy, heaven is for everyone and it all works out in the end.”
I want them to be right.
When I debate with them, I’m hoping to lose.
Hey,  I get it.
I was the kid (still am) who shook in her shoes just watching someone else act up, terrified just to be near someone who MIGHT be in trouble.
The thought of someone being separated from God forever
is too terrible for me to consider.
I work hard NOT to think about it because it bothers me.
If I were to invent a religion, there would be no hell.
And even now, I wouldn’t send anyone there – and I meet some truly evil behaving people in my line of work.
Hell, though, that’s severe.
It would not be my go-to plan if I were in charge.
But, how does that help anyone?
I can’t create a heaven, either, or make you live forever or heal you and,
while I’m sure you’re a bunch of nice people
I wouldn’t give up my son’s life for you
so how I would or wouldn’t treat your eternal soul
isn’t really the point.
When I bring up hell, I’m bringing up something I believe is God’s idea.
Because, despite the trendy preaching du jour,
Jesus seemed to believe there is a place of punishment that awaits certain souls
after death
and He came to save us from it.
I don’t know as much as many theologians and/or Biblical scholars
but Jesus does.
He knows even more.
there are some forty-six verses where Jesus speaks about hell.
And when He speaks about it, He doesn’t seem confused or in doubt.
Read this verse from Mark 9:47-48
“And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,  where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’
Anyplace characterized by flesh-eating worms and flames seems like a place to be avoided.
Now, in the comments on my last post, my good friend, Jim Rubart,
( who is a friend of Stephen Lawhead so you can see that makes me just once removed from being a friend of Stephen Lawhead, not relevant here, but still cool, right?)
mentioned  three “hell” camps of thought:
“Annihilationism” is the camp that believes souls who don’t receive eternal life will cease to exist –
they won’t be in eternal suffering, their lights will simply be snuffed out after Judgment Day.
I like this camp and if God asks us to vote, I’m voting for this.
But Matthew 25:46 doesn’t sound like souls are annihilated: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Eternal punishment sounds bad – unendingly bad.
In camp “Universalism,” souls spend some time suffering for their sins but then they get let out of hell.
Sounds to me like a group of people who earn their way to heaven by paying for their own sins.
I just don’t see much support for that Biblically.
Jesus says that He is the only way to God – not the preferred way until this long-term payment option opens up after death.
I guess that puts me in the Traditionalist camp – an uncomfortable place for a modern Protestant, but, okay, it’s been a long-held position for a reason – significant Biblical support.
From my understanding of the Bible,
not only does hell exist but Jesus is the one who holds the keys.
 According to Luke, Jesus said:
“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Luke 12:4-6
Pretty old-school of Jesus to talk about fear and hell instead of the party that heaven’s going to be, but, there it is, red-letters and all.
And because Jesus discussed it,
I can’t make it go away
even if I really, really, really, really want it to.
So
I guess we’re going to keep discussing it this week
– well, some of you have unsubscribed –
(funny thing, I’ve lost more blog subscriptions over this topic than over any other so, I would love to stop discussing it – every marketing fiber within me tells me to stop discussing
but here I am, still discussing it (with those of you who remain)
because Jesus did
and I’m following Him.
Did you have a different view? I truly want to hear it. I promise it will be a discussion – not a fight –
I’m trying to understand about this topic, not pretend to be an expert.
Who would want to be an expert on hell?
Anyway, what say you?


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5 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. What do I say? I say you have a sound biblical basis for your view of hell. A view I share and don’t like any better than you do. It breaks my heart to know that some of the people I know and love will be going there unless they have a change of heart toward Jesus Christ. It makes me pray more diligently for them and marvel at a God who doesn’t want people to go there any more than I do. Keep posting truth, Lori. The world needs to hear it.

  2. I agree with you, Lori. But I hesitate to talk about it, for the same reasons you mention–it just isn’t comfortable. Guess you could say I like being safe. But I’m behind you all the way–keep talking/writing about it!

  3. I agree with your thoughts on Hell. My big thing is why everyone blames God for sending them there. Yes he did create Heaven and Hell, BUT he also gave each of us free-will. The real truth is that only you can send yourself to Hell…or Heaven.

  4. Glenda Mills says:

    Lori,
    This is so well written. Through it all you speak the truth in love…that’s so important. Praise God, Jesus made a way for us to escape hell and go to heaven. Ravi’s teaching, like always speaks the same truth in love.
    May God continue to strengthen you to write for Him.

  5. Glenda Mills says:

    Lori,
    Is it true, have you been married 50 years? My husband and I will be celebrating our 50th next year. Do you feel the same as I do…how did we get here so fast?