What would you do?
I will answer the question asked in the title of this series, ‘Once Saved?’, but first I have to build up to it so you can think through what you believe and why.
I hope I am giving you food for thought; so many believers are like shallow rivers – broad in appearance but only ankle deep once you get below the surface. We need to be as the Psalmist says and one of my all time favorite song says: Deep calling deep. (Psalm 42:7; and “Deep Calling Deep”, by Margaret Becker)
In the first of this series we found a person’s spirit must have the life of God to enter the kingdom of heaven. Last week we learned the universe is set up with cause/effect and action/reaction, meaning accountability.
Now I’d like you to forget your pre-conceived ideas about hell. Forget your 7th grade reading assignment of Dante’s Inferno that gave you chills, forget the knuckle raps with a ruler those nuns gave you in school which were delivered with the question ‘Do you want to burn in hell?’. Most of all forget the unscriptural modern experiences of people who claim to have been taken to hell and seen people in hell for (for example) not tithing.
Pretend you sit where God did so long ago, when it was just you and the angels. Then 1/3 of those angels – 1/3 of your creation – decides it doesn’t want you anymore. And not just stating politely they don’t want you, but that 1/3 starts a war in violent rejection of you and all that is you!
You are love, and up to that point only love and attributes of love filled the spirit realm.
What would you do if 1/3 of your creation decided it didn’t want to live in a place of eternal love, eternal light, and the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, gentleness, long-suffering, patience, kindness, etc.
What can you do for them? That is why I mentioned last week what Jesus said in Matthew 25:41, when He said of that place that burns with eternal fire, that is was “…prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Not created, prepared
The Father in His goodness, prepared a place for all those in the universe who don’t want to live in a place of love, joy, peace, gentleness and such. Not created, but prepared. Because to prepare such a place is not an act of creation, but an act of withdrawing from creation.
He withdrew Himself, in His graciousness, from a spot in the spirit realm that He might prepare a place for those who don’t want Him. That is what is called hell.
Not only did He withdraw Himself, but Jesus calls it a kingdom. He allowed Lucifer, now known as Satan, to be the king of just such a place in the universe. Jesus asked in Matthew 12:26: “If Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then can his kingdom stand?”
Now I ask you; What kind of culture would a kingdom have where there was no love, light, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness or any other attribute of God? It would be, well, hell, wouldn’t it?
Everyone alive on earth today is in either heaven or hell already
This fact is missed by many. The Bible indicates everyone alive is a citizen of God’s kingdom or Satan’s kingdom. Jesus said to the Pharisees “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44), but by contrast read:
“Giving thanks to the Father, who has made us fit to share the portion which is the inheritance of the saints in the Light. The Father has delivered us and drawn us to Himself out of the control and dominion of darkness, and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” Colossians 1:12-13
There are people you know in your daily life who are in hell, citizens of the kingdom of hell, right now. You know them at work, you interact with them daily. You have family members who are in hell right now and you know them and call them on the phone or email them. They are citizens of hell right now just as you are right now a citizen of heaven. And both sets of citizens are going about life all around us on a daily basis.
Technically speaking, you don’t die and then ‘go’ to hell anymore than you die and then ‘go’ to heaven. You are a citizen of the kingdom of Jesus right now; we in Him, He in us, we are one with Him. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
You and I are right now, in eternity. I remember something the Father spoke to me when I was a teenager: “You body gives you authority while it is alive on the earth. But when your body dies your spirit and soul automatically become subject to the kingdom you’re a citizen of.”
Everyone alive today is a citizen of heaven or hell. So why don’t they feel the torment of hell now? Don’t they? Let me ask this; You are a citizen of heaven, so how often do you feel those attributes of heaven? Isn’t that part of why the church gathers for worship and prayer? So we can partake of His presence, which is the atmosphere and culture of the Son’s kingdom? Don’t we get our ‘fix’ of heaven in part to deal with the pressures of life and reaffirm the reality of what we know in our spirits?
People who are citizens of hell right now do their best to dull the senses so they don’t have to experience the atmosphere of that kingdom they are citizens of. Alcohol, drugs, sexual experiences, buying things, keeping so busy socially they don’t have time to come face to face with the condition of their spirit – these are all things to distract from the reality of NOW being a citizen of that kingdom.
We draw close to the Lord and long for His presence, or as Paul put it in Romans 8:23: “…we groan, who have and enjoy the first fruits of the Holy Spirit, a foretaste of things to come, groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies…”
They draw close to things that distract or dull the senses, or otherwise occupy the senses with activities to get away from the fact they are citizens of a kingdom without God, without love, joy, peace, and so on. We draw near to His presence because of His kingdom’s culture – love, joy, peace and more!
Where does that fire come from?
You may have the idea that hell-fire comes from an angry God: A God angry first that 1/3 of his angels didn’t want Him, and now a good portion of people don’t want Him, so He is angry – right? Isn’t that what hell and the lake of fire is all about – His burning wrath?
After all, isn’t our God a consuming fire? He is, but that passage in Hebrews 12: 27-29 is like every other passage using fire as an attribute of God – it is about how He purifies for no darkness can exist in His presence. For instance, the Word says we add either wood, hay and stubble to the foundation of Jesus in our lives, or gold, silver and precious stones, with the wood, hay and stubble being burned away when we stand before Him. (I Corinthians 3:12-13)
And remember John the Baptist’s statement of Jesus: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”. (Matthew 3:11) Back in the 1970′s some of my friends took that to mean a 2nd baptism (with fire), so they sought to feel His fire, not realizing the Holy Spirit’s role in recreating the human spirit and cleansing our lives as with fire is a life long process not a single experience to be sought after. (Though the Lord in His graciousness did give some of my friends the ‘feeling’ of fire – hey, we were 17, what did we know?)
I would like to propose another source for the fire: Satan. Fire is also used throughout the Word to describe desires never satisfied. Paul talked about burning with sexual desire in I Corinthians 7:9, burning with weakness and offense in II Corinthians 11:29, and Jesus spoke of burning with lust in Matthew 5.
People, and fallen angels for that matter, burn due to never having their desires met, never having their comfort desires met, never being fulfilled according to their eternal purpose in God, never feeling love, joy, peace - because they didn’t want to live with love, joy, peace, comfort and such in their lives.
So people whose lives on earth were once filled with distractions to dull the pain of their spiritual condition and citizenship, have that pain naturally magnified all the more in hell as there are no distractions from the reality of what they have chosen. No schedule to fill, no drink to dull the sense, no experience to distract from reality. Just reality of the citizenship they have chosen.
Go back to the start and think of Lucifer – he never did get to kick God off the throne – that desire is unfilled though he continues to burn with that very desire to this day. So everything in his kingdom trickles down from that – never satisfied desires, goals – the inability to be fulfilled in any area.
I believe that is why Ezekiel 28:18 when speaking of Lucifer’s fall, says that God brings forth, or in the Hebrew, allowed to “bring forth out of the midst of you a fire which consumes you”.
I submit for your consideration THAT is what the fires of hell are all about – burning desires that will never be fulfilled, originating with Satan’s unfulfilled desire to de-throne God. Hell is the place God prepared in loving kindness as an alternative to heaven – He isn’t into forcing people to become citizens of a place governed by love, joy, peace…A different perspective perhaps…
But is it forever?
That will be for next week, as I’ve run out of space. Until then, blessings,