This past couple of Sundays our Pastor’s sermons have been on Hell. Actually eternal, conscious, torment in Hell. The sermons so far have been set up with much care. First establishing his belief that the Bible, as God’s word, is inerrant and infallible. Then he moved to the premise that Jesus spoke more about Hell than Heaven. That lead to the simple connective ideas – if the Bible is true and if Jesus spoke about Hell then Hell is real and people who do not accept Jesus will spend eternity in eternal conscious torment.
I struggle a good deal with this idea of Hell. I don’t argue that Jesus spoke about it and therefore makes it tenable, I simply struggle with the idea of eternal, conscious, torment. It seems to me that it’s rather self-serving in one sense. Basically it’s like God saying “believe in my Son or else.” That leads to a rather sobering understanding of the nature of God and the rather human tendency of people “believing” simply to avoid it. The old “fire insurance” kind of belief. I wonder if there is real value in that type of belief or if God sees any real value in that kind of beleif. But that’s another subject for another time.
I don’t begrudge God setting things up so that people who choose not to (or He elects not to) believe in Him are punished consciously for all eternity. After all, He is God – a kind of might makes right thing. But it does seem rather difficult to swallow when one considers “for God so love the world.” Now that verse was used as part of the sermon and the emphasis was not on the love part as much as it was those who believe in God’s only begotten son will receive eternal life and never perish. Which I suppose begs the question – why did John use the word “perish” and not “live in conscious torment for all eternity.” Perhaps he thought perish was bad enough! And I contend that perish, the Greek word apollumi, which means perish, destroy, or fully destroy may indeed be the correct understanding of Hell and not eternal, conscious, torment.
Now I’ll admit, thinking about this topic, listening to the sermons and doing some additional reading on the topic has made me sick – literally sick. It seems so unfathomable for me to think that God – all powerful and all knowing – a “good” God and a God of love would willing sacrifice His only begotten son simply to complete a plan that would put people in a position to make such a choice that results in eternal, conscious torment. Does it not seem more reasonable (bad choice of words I know) that God would have the choice be eternal life or perish not eternal life or eternal, conscious torment? Wasn’t the consequence of original sin “death?” Aren’t the wages of sin “death?” Isn’t that punishment severe enough for those who knowingly and continually reject belief in God’s son? What value is there or what delight does God take in the eternal, conscious torment of his creation?
I reckon I’ll have more concerns to look at after the last of the series on Hell next week. For right now, I’ll simply struggle with the correct meaning of what the Bible says on this topic – both OT and NT – can’t take on without the other.
PS… spell check wasn’t working so I apologize for any errors – other than my thinking. 🙂