Hell: That’s What’s Going Down!
When I think of Hell, I immediately have to fight through different stereotypical imagery that the culture around me has constructed. I am constantly bombarded with images of heaven and hell, and “eternal things.” No matter where I turn, I am trying to be influenced to believe “X” about what my eternity will look like. Sadly, I must confess that currently when I read or hear the word Hell I immediately think of a Futurama episode when Bender goes to robot hell. Sacrilegious or blasphemous? Well, I am not “religious,” but yup, for me and my heart it is.
Although God is constantly revealing His Love for me in deeper ways using the things around me, to have a holy and sacred perspective, I know I cannot look at a flower or a dog or a cartoon to truly develop my theology on eternity; I must read the Bible. Since I want a holy and sacred view of the Bible to be on the tip of my tongue, (instead of Matt Groening’s view), that’s exactly what I did: I read my Bible.
As I began rereading through various chapters and verses of the New Testament I became overwhelmed. Jesus was serious about Hell. It is real, and He did not play games with words when He talked about it. Jesus presented life or death with Love that perfectly poured out of Him. He spoke in very clear, cutting ways, straight to the heart of man’s spirit and soul. As I read His words I kept on hearing, “either choose my Love or choose what you have, but do not think for a moment that your decision is not eternal.”
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ ” -Matthew 25:41 (ESV)
46 “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” -Matthew 25:46 (ESV)
51 “and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” -Matthew 24:51 (ESV)
6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. -John 15:16 (ESV)
“Eternal fire.” “Eternal Punishment.” “Weeping and gnashing of teeth.” “Burned.” Let’s be real: none of those words would be on the label of Marshmallow Fluff. Jesus is talking, and is saying things in a way that require a response. Feeling burdened, as I read many more verses, I did exactly that, I responded. I began to think of what my eternity would look like if I died right after typing the last sentence of this article. What would things look like for me?
19“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20“And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22“Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23“In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24“And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ “- Luke 16:19-26 (NASB)
As I read these verses I saw the rich man in Hades (Sheol) staring into the ever-present majesty of God, tormented with the fact of what he should have done. Where it says that the rich man wishes for his tongue to be cooled, I imagined it a result of spending an eternity confessing to the greatness of that which he chose not to have. The rich man was truly experiencing torment, fully aware of his loss, while Lazarus is not mentioned to be aware of the rich man’s torment at all.
As I explored the Bible’s explanation of Abraham’s Side, Abraham’s Bosom, or Paradise, as the “follower’s” temporary holding place until Christ comes back began reading some interrelated (or cross-reference) verses:
18 “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” -John 1:18 (NASB- emphasis added)
23 “There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24So Simon Peter gestured to him, and said to him, ‘Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.’ 25He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, said to Him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ ” – John 13:23-25 (NASB- emphasis added)
Jesus Christ, our Savior, is IN the bosom of His Father. He is nestled in like a newborn child, into the warmth of His Father’s chest. Likewise, Jesus and John reflect this Love in their conversation at the Last Supper when John rests his head on the Savior’s chest. Intimacy. Affection. Love. Can you imagine listening to the heartbeat of the Savior?
These verses are all interwoven for us to begin to understand the level of intimacy of God we are to experience in our eternal spiritual lives.
As Lazarus experiences this Paradise, so does the thief (Luke 23:39-43), a man who was lost, and wayward. He repented of his unbelief in Christ, by believing in who Christ says He is. Christ responded by giving him His Life, His Love, His Chest, and Eternity. He has responded to me in the same way. If you have confessed in whom He says He is, you too have received His eternal response.
Death is real. Hell is real. Now I pray that as I reach out to those who are lost I will always picture the torment of the rich man, and the Hope of the thief laying his head on the chest of our Savior. Why? Because His Love is Real.
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