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BULLETIN ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY
THE MINIMAL BIBLICAL IMPORT ON HELL
"We had a hell of a time," say some brassily. Language and custom alike love to mock, deride, derogate the realities of the nature of the human race, its creation, condition and available destiny, one way or the other.
The minimal import on hell, drawn from the Bible, is this.
It is a domain in which
lies a state of rebellion unvanquished, hostility to the love of God, aversion
from His salvation, disaccord with His dealings, imperviousness to His mercy,
preference for personal pollution, irremediable distaste for deity, final
corrosion of the powers of choice, a destruction which has neither a restoration
to follow nor a relief to envisage, the memory of which is impressed for ever,
the shame and conviction in which is grief, with the heart stricken, from which
no deceit can prevail nor resurrection occur.
As C .S. Lewis has pointed out destruction has its impact and results, and indeed there are areas where we can safely leave the imagination out; but the corruption is intense, immense and unhidden by any morbid deviousness, which has been a specialty for many while on this earth.
It is necessary to remember the enormity of ignoring the creation and salvation of God over its irrefutable testimony (cf. SMR) and maintaining a preference for what is not light in the practicality of living, when the light of the Gospel shines in its wonder. Such final negativity comprises not only a logical fallacy but a spiritual rebellion which in the end (Rev. 19:19) becomes the fantasy of actually making war on God, a thing in essence even noted in Micah 3:5 as a spiritual essence, deviously displayed by the false prophets (cf. Jeremiah 23).
From the nature of His foreknowledge, however, before man or human sin were so much as created severally or together, and His protestations (cf. Bulletins 108, 115, SMR Appendix B), there is no possibility of what might have been won for Him being lost by oversight, error or a failure in His embracive love.
Hell is obtained by stepping, in the end, over the stricken body of the crucified Saviour, where all short of force is spent for the salvation of man (John 3:16-17). The avoidance of the resurrection is not its voidance. It remains on offer and the Gospel and its fruits still remain to this hour, operative and available, presented with passion and compassion (John 5:24 shouts it like a trumpet, and John 3:16ff., sends it like a torrent of mercy spreading to any corner where it may summon, a thing sovereignly commanded, heartily commended, never amended -Galatians 1).
He who is thirsty may quench thirst whether as recorded in John 4:14 at the well, or in Revelation as earthly history is reviewed to the end (22:17).
As to the maximal view of hell, it is sometimes said that it is an everlasting conscious torment that is suffered. Yet the term 'conscious' in this setting is not found in the Bible, nor for that matter, in the Westminster Confession either, though it be merely a staff to help. This usage ignores the point that destruction has effects, whatever its duration, and the term 'conscious' here strongly reminds of the manner in which we suffer now on earth where, though we grow old, we are not punitively afflicted in the same way. What is the precise manner and mode of suffering in a positively directed devastation leaving but a remnant of a person ? I do not know and do not wish to exercise myself in things too great for me (Psalm 131:1).
While torment involves some kind of awareness, and acute awareness of contempt, grief, shame and contempt is undoubtedly the lot of the ultimately resistant wicked, invasive to the utmost in their smitten souls, yet when heaven and earth and their ways as now, pass away, so that days as we now know them are then spent, it is with the utmost joy that I leave the nature of a shrivelled soul in a condemned body to the Lord who made me. It is enough that its state is irremediable, unredeemable, without hope, remission, relief or restoration, that it involves a misery amidst reality, and that this estate is not willingly appointed, for the Father would have ALL THINGS reconciled to Himself (Colossians 1:19). To read it otherwise is to ignore revealed truth. Nevertheless, in His restrained though costly love, He does not force, and what prefers darkness to light might find heaven a hollow haven of maximum blight, fighting the light.
There is neither joy nor obliterative content in the biblical depiction of hell, and fighting against your Maker is fighting also against yourself whom He made, its welfare, place and worst of all, against His provision in mercy, so recklessly swept aside.