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Seizing Life for the Glory of God

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Heaven and Hell

Q/A Friday: Is God Present In Hell?

It has been said before God is not present in hell – or that hell is “the nonappearance of God”. But we have a theological problem – God is omnipresent. He is everywhere. David wrote,

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Ps 139:7-10).

David’s son, Solomon, said heaven and earth cannot contain God (I Kings 8:27), which means He is not just in one place. God is everywhere. He is above containment. He fills heaven and earth (Jeremiah 23:24). Omnipresence is God being everywhere at all times with His whole being and all His attributes and not being contained in something or someone.

To say God is not in hell in some form or fashion would be to say God is “mostly present” and not “omnipresent”

So, the question is this: how is God present in hell? It could be said that while God never ceases to manifest His attributes, there are times in our lives when some of His attributes are more apparent than others. For example, when a mother gives birth to His child, the compassion and tenderness of God is clear but His wrath is not as apparent.

Thus, in hell, His wrath and justice are clear, but His mercy and longsuffering are not. It is not that He ceases to be a loving God, but those who suffer in hell are mostly consumed with only the “negative” attributes of God, because they are objects of His justice. They are not thinking about His long-suffering; they are thinking of His wrath.

God doesn’t cease to be who He is; people in hell cease to perceive all of who God is.

Hell is a display of God’s justice, and it glorifies God because it is where He fulfills a promise to punish those who reject Him. God – and His wrath – are very present in hell. It may appear to those suffering that parts of His person are absent but God is most certainly ruling hell.

In hell, God is the ruler and God is glorified because He is able to keep His word to punish rejecting sinners. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:28, “When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” Thus, hell is ruled by God.

One Scripture that is used to object to the idea that God is present in hell is II Thessalonians 1:9 – “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” The phrase “away from the presence of the Lord” seems to suggest banishment from God forever.

But, the original word means “in the face of.” When someone, in biblical times, referred to being in the face of God, they were not so much as referring to a physical location as they were referring to a status. To be in God’s face is to be an object of His favor. II Thessalonians 1:9 is about being removed from His favor, which is what hell is.

John reminds us in Revelation 14:9-10 that God is present in hell and those that are there are aware of that fact: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.”

R.C. Sproul, the President of Ligonier Ministries, talks about the presence of God in hell:

“A breath of relief is usually heard when someone declares, ‘Hell is a symbol for separation from God.’ To be separated from God for eternity is no great threat to the impenitent person. The ungodly want nothing more than to be separated from God. Their problem in hell will not be separation from God, it will be the presence of God that will torment them. In hell, God will be present in the fullness of His divine wrath. He will be there to exercise His just punishment of the damned. They will know Him as an all-consuming fire.” (http://www.bible-researcher.com/hell6.html)

All of this gives a sense of even more terror in hell. To come to the point of understanding that you can never flee His presence and He is ever before you and you perceive a never-ending wrath – that is the deepest of stings.

Questions

If you have a question you would like to submit to our blog to be answered in the future, please it to charlesheck@cox.net or pose your question in the comments section of this post.

Q/A Friday: Why Should We Study Hell?

First, we should study hell because Jesus talked about it often. There are approximately 1500+ verses that are recorded in the Gospels coming from Jesus’ lips where He is formally teaching on a subject. The other 300-400 verses that record His sayings are just declarative statements of His movements, greetings. Thus, about 8% of His preaching was on hell and impending judgment. If you think that is a small percentage, you will find that He speaks more about hell than our relationship to the Bible, how we worship, and sexual purity. Jesus is not silent about hell and no other author in Scripture even comes close to speaking about it as often. Why does Jesus speak about hell so often? Because He is the Savior of the world. He wants people to know what He is saving them from. Jesus speaks in greater detail and frequency about hell, because He is sending people there. No one speaks with more authority about hell than Jesus, and as His spokesmen we cannot be silent either.

Second, we should study hell because it magnifies heaven. What makes hell awful is how wonderful heaven is; what makes heaven incredible is how terrible hell is. They contrast one another in extremes, and thus, magnify one another as well. Heaven and hell are polar opposite and one magnifies the other. We want to get and feel the full brunt of hell and get a whiff and a full taste of heaven. One magnifies the other.

Third, we should study hell because it deepens our appreciation of the Savior’s sufferings on the Cross The cross was the center of God’s wrath on earth. And that description of Jesus on the cross is what hell is also like. When you see the terribleness of hell, you can have a better understanding of sympathy for the sufferings of Jesus on the cross. God’s wrath is seen in it’s extremeness at the cross and will be endured for eternity in hell. On the cross, Jesus endured the wrath of God poured out on Him for every sin of every human ever committed past, present and future. In hell, those that reject him won’t experience salvation paid for on the cross.

Fourth, we should study hell because it encourages us to proclaim the Gospel with regularity. There is no more urgent task than the proclamation of the Gospel. If you had an endless supply of a guaranteed cure for cancer in your home, would you not spend every waking minute administering it to cancer patients in local hospitals or in your family? You would do everything you could so save people with the very remedy they need. Man’s central need is for Jesus’ redemption from sin. And we know exactly what it takes to understand and embrace that. To not warn people about danger is unloving.

Questions

If you have a question you would like to submit to our blog to be answered in the future, please it to charlesheck@cox.net or pose your question in the comments section of this post.

Randy Alcorn, On the “Why” of Hell’s Existence

Image result“Many imagine that it is civilized, humane, and compassionate to deny the existence of an eternal Hell, but in fact it is arrogant that we, as creatures, would dare to take what we think is the moral high ground in opposition to what God the Creator has clearly revealed. We don’t want to believe that any others deserve eternal punishment, because if they do, so do we. But if we understood, God’s nature and ours, we would be shocked not that some people could go to Hell (where else could sinners god?), but that any would be permitted into Heaven. Unholy as we are, we are disqualified from saying that infinite holiness doesn’t demand everlasting punishment. By denying the endlessness of Hell, we minimize Christ’s work on the cross. Why? Because we lower the stakes of redemption. If Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection didn’t deliver us from an eternal Hell, his work on the cross is less heroic, less potent, less consequential, and thus less deserving of our worship and praise.” (Randy Alcorn, Heaven, pg. 25)

Jonathan Edwards, On the Happiness of Going to Heaven

edwards-jonathan-preaching“The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean. Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey toward heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives; to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why would be labour for, or set our hearts on, any thing else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness.”

Jonathan Edwards, The Christian Pilgrim

Think Heaven

The Wednesday feature of the Worldly Saints blog is a Scriptural meditation whereby I take a verse or passage I have been pondering lately and seek to edify my readers with it’s promises, encouragements, warnings, rebukes, etc.

 

We were created with a desire for something far better than this current world; we were designed for a longing for something more. But here is a question: “How do we fuel that desire? How do we keep it’s torch lit?” There are certainly times with the flame doesn’t burn as strong as it should.

Here is an overly-simplistic answer: think about it more often. Colossians 3:2-3 reads, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

This calls us to place our affections in the right location. This does not mean that we become so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good; it means we look at earth from heaven’s point of view because this is our real home (Phil 3:2). We are being told to think the thought of God.

Colossians 3.2

Paul says “set your mind” which means “to have an inner disposition or to ponder.” The command is to think and seek heaven; heaven should be the believer’s entire orientation. It speaks to the will and the motives. It is like a needle of a compass seeking to find the correct line of direction.

You see, Christianity is rational. We have lost this concept of biblical thinking in our society today John Stott was of the deepest, thought-provoking single men in history. He was asked not too long ago to give some advice to the next generation of leaders as he was reflecting upon his 50+ years of ministry. Here was his response:

“I’d want to say so many things. But my main exhortation would be this: don’t neglect your critical faculties. Remember that God is a rational God, who has made us in His own image. God invites and expects us to explore His double revelation, in nature and Scripture, with the minds He has given us, and to go on in the development of a Christian mind to apply His marvelous revealed truth to every aspect of the modern and post-modern world.”[1]

Both of these men and Paul in Colossians 2 express the heart of our faith: the mind is essential to use for sanctification. Christianity is a thinking religion.

Paul is saying “Think long and hard about heaven; think without ceasing about heaven. Don’t waste your time thinking about meaningless, worldly things. Occupy your mind with heaven.” You can think heaven by reflecting on your own mortality; you can think heaven by reminding yourself that everything in this world will burn; you can think heaven by realizing your decisions today have an influence and impact on the world to come. Think heaven.

Occupy your mind with heaven because Christ is there and since we are “hidden” in Him, we are on our way there. This phrase suggests 4 thoughts:

  • We are safe. Danger is being outside of Christ; peace and safety is being in Him. We cannot be snatched out of His hand (John 10:28). We are wrapped up in Him.
  • We are identified with Him. We are known as followers of Him. We share a common life with the Son (I Cor 6:17); we are partakers of His divine nature (II Pet 1:4).
  • We are satisfied. If we are in Christ, there is no other vice this world can provide to satisfy us. Only He satisfies.
  • We are not meant for this world. The world is not our domain; it isn’t our playground.

We are commanded to occupy our minds with heaven, because Christ is there and since we are in Christ, we too will be there…one day.

This is something old hymn writers understood. Look at how many hymns have a final verse dealing with the resurrection or future glory. We must not only seek after heaven (vs. 1) but we must think heaven.

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[1] Cited from an article by Roy McCloughry, “Basic Stott,” Christianity Today, January 8, 1996, pg. 32.

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