Can God be righteous, and just, can He be all of the good things we say about Him, if a place such as hell exists? Can He be true, and not evil, if that place called hell is as bad as we have believed it is?
These are deep questions. However, I think we need to ask these questions, and I think we need to have an answer based on scripture, if we are to know God at all.
Scripture claims that God is love, and many say that God could not be love if hell were real, for how could love condemn someone to that place for any length of time? That last question is even more difficult, isn’t it? Well, what do you think?
What if I were to tell you that God could still be love even if hell were real? Would you believe me? Many of you would, because we have been raised in faith to believe just this very thing. But how deeply have we ever questioned this “doctrine”? Have we done the leg work, the necessary investigation to find out if it is true? Or have we been lazy, and simply taken it as a fact because that’s what we have always been told?
We should always be careful whenever we claim that God could be, or could not be this or that. The statement, “God is only love all of the time” is not true. He is many other things as well. Yet almost always, a person’s view of God depends solely on what they have “heard” spoken of Him, whether that be in sermons, or through discussions, or in today’s climate, where radio is widespread, and CD’s are available to listen to through purchase. But the question that should be answered by each one of us remains, “Who do you say that I am?”
I am of the belief that books, CD’s, and hearing sermons will only take one so far with their knowledge of “Who” God is, and of “What” God is. I think we might all agree on this principal. Yet one look at the industry of publishing shows us that Christian book buying, and CD buying is at an all time high, meaning, Christians from all over the place are relying and learning from people other than God. The messages they hear may well be of God, but they would never know this, because they continue to take “experts” at their word.
I wonder, why is this?
Why do we flock to everyone BUT God for the answers to the questions “Who” and “What” is God? Why, I could buy any number of books about Calvinism, Catholicism, Lutheranism, Annihilationism, pre-millennialism, post-millennialism, pre-trib rapturalism (yes, I know, I’m making up words again), Universal Salvationism, and all other manner of media. Just the other day, I saw a CD for sale claiming that Universal salvation through Christ is the only way God could be, or He wouldn’t be a God of love. I thought to myself, “Really? I wonder how that came to be?”
Knowing that I no longer wish for any to suffer “hell”, I find myself also no longer calling for God to come and destroy those who hate Him. Rather, I pray, and hope for a change in their hearts. This doesn’t always occur, in fact, rarely does it occur. That change that enables a man to believe with his heart that Christ is Risen and savior seems to be something that we as people have little effect upon. We can preach, teach, pray, and love our neighbor as ourselves, yet still, that change of heart is way beyond any talent we possess that would enable us to make it happen in another person.
So the question I have is, along with hell, can God be loving if He allows any suffering at all to occur? Let’s face it, what is hell when it seems so distant and vague. We live in the here and now, especially if we are believers. The future is the future, and although our hope remains for the future, if we believe, then the now is every bit as important as the eternal future. Having said that, again, I ask, how can God be love if He allows suffering even now, eternally now?
That question was raised because I thought about the CD’s claim, that God couldn’t be love if universal salvation through Jesus Christ wasn’t true. I look at all of these “doctrine’s”, many of them with convincing “evidences”, with an eye on God, and I wonder if any of us really know God, or if we are just making things up as we go. Don’t mistake me, I do believe we can know God. I just don’t think we want to know all that much about Him.
For how can we question God’s love in the context of hell, when for at least six thousand years already, “eternally now”, God has always allowed people to suffer? What’s the difference between a vague “eternity”, and an “eternal now”? And lest you think that now is not eternal, I guess I would have to remind you that to us, now is eternal, because now is the only “time” we have ever known. And in all this “time”, God has been present, has had the ability to stop all suffering and pain, and has chosen not to.
If the Kingdom of God is amongst us, and we know that it is, we know that it is not some far off vague place, but rather, that it is here, within us and around us, then how is it possible that God could still be love, and allow all of the sin we do, and all of the suffering that takes place because of it? I believe that if you want to prove that God couldn’t be love if hell was real, then you would also have to say that God couldn’t be love if all this suffering were within His ability to change and instead, He chose not to.
“Now” is eternal, because God exists in the eternal now, so to Him, there is no difference between yesterday and today, as far as time is concerned. We, being finite physical creatures, on the other hand, are always concerned with time as a reference point. We use yesterday to gauge how today went. Do you really think God does the same thing?
So, could what we know about God be true? Could all these doctrines of men be true at the same time? According to my understanding, it couldn’t be so. I look at universal salvation through Jesus Christ, and I say, “What a wonderful hope!! I hope it’s true!” I look at God’s sovereign choice (Calvinism), and I say, “It has to be!! Because none of us, if faced with a choice between God and flesh, would ever choose God, it’s just not in our nature to do so, not without divine intervention.” But these are all just “doctrine”, and furthermore, they are doctrine of men. Can they also be doctrine of God?
Well, I would suggest we all find out, because the gospel we believe is the gospel we preach. Do you want to preach the true gospel, or some gospel that some guy you never met made up because it “sounded” right?
Is hell real? Can God be love if it is? I believe God can be love if any number of bad things are true, mainly because we see bad things here and now, in the “eternal now”, all of the time. I believe God is love exactly because He is love beyond our understanding, even if that means certain things are true about Him that we don’t want to be. Let’s face it, slaughtering His own Son has for centuries been called the greatest act of love man has ever known.
Yet it was for our benefit that He did so. If God also allows pain for our benefit, we seldom have trouble still believing that God is love. Yet when it comes to things we haven’t seen, and things we don’t understand, all of a sudden, we want to claim things about God that contradict how He has been throughout this “eternal now”. Why is it okay for God to slaughter His son, to make plans even to do so, and it is not okay for hell to be real?
The truth is, it is not “good” to slaughter one’s own son. Not even if it is for our benefit. Not unless you consider that God is not held bound by our morals, by our understanding, and by our limited way of seeing the truth in this “eternal now”. But if you grant that God is still good because he allowed , nay, planned for His son’s slaughter, then might not it also follow that He can be good even if hell is real?
I have no answers right now, but I am seeking the Truth, and He is always willing to reveal Himself to those who seek Him. But I will leave you with one scenario of why hell could be real, and God could still be good, even if it was.
Imagine, if universal salvation through Jesus was true. Get there in your mind, because it is a possibility, one that many of us deny simply because we hear Jesus talk about hell without understanding. Are you there yet?
Now, picture Osama Bin Laden meeting Jesus for the first time after he dies. Picture Jesus saying to him, “you are not here because of Mohammed, and you are not here because you gloriously died for your Jihad. You are here because I died for you.”
What would good Osama say to that? Can he say, “I know, my Lord, I know that I didn’t earn this, and that you, and not Mohammed, are the one true Prophet.”? In that “eternal now” moment, does Osama believe? And if he does, what has occurred in him that didn’t occur the entire time he was here, in our “eternal now”? Or, does he remain uncircumcised in heart, because he exchanged the image of God for the image of man?
If Osama is to believe that Jesus is his savior after death, something is going to have to happen inside of him after death that brings this glorious change about. It didn’t happen here on earth, in this “eternal now”, so something glorious will have to happen to his mind and heart after death.
Do you see that God has not revealed what this something is? I do. If Calvinism is true, then God has not revealed how it works. If universal salvation through Jesus is true, God has not revealed how it works. Oh, we know that Jesus died for our sins, and that we have been made clean through Him. But in this “now”, many do not believe that. In fact, many claim rather to hate God.
So my question to end this long post is this; How can a God who claims to be love, be love, if He forces people who hate Him to be with Him eternally?
We have all seen people who hate God. We were all once people who hated God. Something happened here, in this “now”, to change that, and I say, none of us “caused” it. We may have had a choice, but if any of us really believes that we would choose God over flesh, I think we are a bit arrogant for that belief. History proves no man chooses God over himself, not without divine help.
But when this history is over for us, and for those who have remained in their hate for God in this “eternal now”, will their hate toward God all of a sudden change in the next “eternal now”?
Or will God force those who hate Him to spend eternity with Him? Jesus spoke of a door being closed, and not being opened again. Currently, I believe that this door is death, and when it occurs, once it occurs, there is no change of heart possible any longer.
Eternity is now, and tomorrow. It is not far off, it is here right now. And in this “eternal now”, there is still suffering, and there is still death. But God does not use yesterday as a gauge for how today went, the way we do. I think we need to see things from God’s perspective, rather than how we have always seen things from ours. I admit, the idea of hell from my perspective is grizzly and horrid, and how can a God who claims to be love even mention such a place? The mere thought of it is evil. Yet what do I know? Am I going to be Job, and raise myself up against God, and shake my finger at Him?
Man has ALWAYS shaken his finger at God, ALWAYS in misunderstanding. Yet God has been patient with all of us. If hell is real, I believe God can still be love. But the problem isn’t hell. The problem is us, boxing God in, and judging Him, if He doesn’t fit our notions of what He is “supposed” to be like. This has always been our problem, and it remains to this day.
I guess in the end, I am saying this. Leave room for hell. Leave room for God to be good, and love, if hell is true. Leave room to worship Him regardless of what is true about Him, because if you don’t, then you have set yourself up as God’s judge. And who of us knows enough of ANYTHING to be that good? In fact, if we are able in anything to say, “if God is this way or that way, then I can’t love Him or worship Him,” then I believe we remain with an unrepentant heart, because Jesus died not to give us the right to judge God, but to give us the right to be His friend. The end of all things is that men must realize that we are finite, created beings. Once we realize this fact, we will be less likely to claim that God must be this or that, or He isn’t love. Because the truth is, there are many things about God in this present time that lead many to believe He cannot be love. How do we answer them if we ourselves have placed “limits” on how we will allow God to act?
That’s the crux, that even though Jesus has given freedom, He has not given us freedom to judge God. So how can God be love if hell is real, and how can God be love if He forces people who hate Him to be around him eternally? The answers to those questions are not important.
What is important is this; is God God to you, or is He only God if certain conditions are met? A King does not need His subject’s permission to act a certain way. His subject’s need the King’s permission to act a certain way. Which one of us has asked God for permission to judge Him, and what would He say to that question?
If God cannot be love if hell is real, can you answer this question as well? How can you love God if you still sin? See the problem? If God doesn not judge us, who are evil, how can we judge God, who is good?