Earlier, I spoke of the next destination in our lives- Not this finite one you and I live on planet Earth, but the one we live within it. Like a box within a box, our eternal spirit is merely housed within a finite physical shell. We are created as dependent eternal beings; able to live beyond physical death, but dependent upon our Creator for that life.
This is overlooked in modern Christianity, and has been for some time. In fact, there have been those "hellfire and brimstone" preachers which have pushed forward the idea of our earning our right to enter Heaven here on Earth. These say that if one dies in sin, one falls through into Hell. Strangely enough, no sin is present in this world save that which grieves the Holy Spirit- That is if I'm reading my Bible right. Don't get me wrong here. I am not saying that humans are perfect, nor am I committing heresy.
What I am saying is that MY Bible states Christ died for the sins of ALL. That means every one of them, not just the ones we repented of this morning. In fact, the only sin which is not forgivable- Is not accepting that very forgiveness. It's the ticket to board the cruise ship; if you have it, you go- If not, you don't.
Nevertheless, these wonderful preachers made their money convincing people that they were hot because Hell was right beneath them... And not because they were packed into a tent tighter than sardines. It was this ministry of condemnation that gave rise to such mindsets as that of the noted agnostic, Robert Ingersoll. It was he who stated thusly:
They say that when god was in Jerusalem he forgave his murderers, but now he will not forgive an honest man for differing with him on the subject of the Trinity. They say that God says to me, "Forgive your enemies." I say, "I do;" but he says, "I will damn mine." God should be consistent. If he wants me to forgive my enemies he should forgive his. I am asked to forgive enemies who can hurt me. God is only asked to forgive enemies who cannot hurt him. He certainly ought to be as generous as he asks us to be.
Individuals who say these things seem not to be understanding a very crucial fact: We humans are eternal, within a finite vessel. In the beginning, after the Fall of Man, yet before the Sacrifice, all of humanity understood this. Indeed, Cain mourned that his punishment for killing Able was too great to bear. "Everyone who comes across me shall slay me," he states, giving reference to his own eternity within the finite.
Today, however, this seems to be the sum of existence for many, and how sad is that?! Regardless of the tragedy encompassed by such a life stance, it progresses and grows. Many are taken in by this foolish thinking, and the various forms of "logic" which spring up around it. Such as the idea that mankind is doomed for its rejection of God's love, when in reality, man is doomed for its fallen nature.
Much like a car with a shorting central computer, our lives spit and sputter and refuse to run well. Continuing on with this sort of problem could lead to far more serious disaster: A sudden seizing of the brakes and the remainder of life as a paraplegic, for this example. We could continue on, not knowing this fate is awaiting; or we could bring it in to the mechanic, who has already paid for the replacement so as not to burden us with the price.
This truth is NOT what Bell operates under in his most recent book. Instead, he presents his version of "truth," one that leaves out the troublesome issues of Hell and eternal justice. He asks, in essence, what kind of loving God would damn a human soul to eternal punishment? The answer, he states, is that God would not. Thus he commits to the ages an atrocious error, one which Satan himself has fabricated: The assumption one knows the Creator based upon a sole aspect.
If God is Love, than how could He damn a soul? If God were solely and completely the sort of fuzzy love we associate with teddy bears and Santa Claus, than He could not. Fortunately, God is so much more. In fact, we often start at the wrong end when teaching on the love and/or wrath of God. However, before we get to that point, we first must define terms according to the Bible, not according to today's understanding.
First, we must understand that Love is not merely a fuzzy feeling. The opposite of love is not hatred, and love has the ability to be seemingly cruel. The opposite of love is apathy, for even hatred errupts based upon love. The seeming cruelty of love takes place when it must allow for discipline and punishment. A parent hates punishing a child, but it must be done at times. Why? Because love desires the very best. Allowing an action heedless of future wellbeing would not be love- It would be gross indulgence. Thus, love will seem very cruel when the object of love does not act in its own best interest.
Then we must look to wrath. Wrath is not the form of anger we see today. If anything, it too comes from a point of love. Wrath is the natural response when the object of love acts contrary to its best interest. It is anger, disappointment and sorrow together as one. Anger that one could be so thoughtless as to disregard one's wellbeing so entirely. Disappointment that one could do so more than can be credited to mistake. Sorrow that one must be opened to punishment as a result of wrongdoing.
Where we tend to get things backwards is our teaching of the reasons for the Wrath. Most say that it is man's rejection of Christ's Love that brings the wrath. In fact, this is wrong. It is man's fallen state which brings the wrath. Sinful man does not reject the love of Christ- he rejects the sacrifice, thus taking the full weight of his own sin back upon himself.
God is not only Love. He is also just. Justice can abide nothing but complete and absolute conformity to upright living; that is, living according to the desires of love. Anything other must be punished. It is perfect love which leads to perfect justice. Love desires the very best; wrath is the result of infraction upon obtaining the best; justice responds to the infraction.
Our sin affects our entire being, a blemish upon an undying spirit. Yet we seem to believe it a temporary thing. Because of this false belief, many see the idea of Hell as being entirely too much. In reality, however, it is a just punishment based upon the lasting decision of an eternal being to reject a permanent covering. In effect, man is already charged with his crime, and the punishment is death. When man rejects the sacrifice, he rejects his own plea bargin- The one thing which could get him out of that death.
And yet, with all of this, people seem to believe an eternally lasting crime not worthy of an eternal punishment. The crime not forgiven, the only one, is the one for which forgiveness is not sought. Those eventually sent to Hell are sent, not because of God's desire to punish, but because they have condemned themselves.