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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. Thus 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 the Confession makes itself 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 impact of needless failure, 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. To preferences for darkness, heaven might be the ultimate horror.
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.
There is an additional consideration. Two passages, one in Ezekiel, one in Isaiah present even a further aspect of the nature of the end for those after all that God has done, still irreparably lost. After the ambitious, God-confronting (cf. Jeremiah 31 and 32, endings) work of the Northern power, predicted to come against Israel, not long after its return (Ezekiel 38:8), after so long an exile, to its land, there is a certain vigour. There is a certain divinethoroughness and teaching both to Israel and to the nations of this world, that is decisive, unchanging, instructive and final.
Israel and the nations BOTH learn: Israel of the reason for its exile, once and for all, and the nations are instructed of the same background to all that has occurred. NO MORE will such things afflict His people. In Isaiah 30:28-33, there is rather a similar finality to the super-robust aggressiveness and arrogant presumption of Assyria. It is enough! no more of this tough, rough, self-aggrandising, oppressive power for you! appears an underlying part of the message.
In other words, it
spiritually resembles the thought, ideal and hope, sometimes even confidence
after the thicket of horrors of World War I, that such atrocities and follies
would be no more in an educative, sensitised world. That hope was quite wrong in
this field, but easy indeed is it to understand both the hope and the
optimistic thought after such woe as smote a whole generation, 1914-1918.
No more will these things happen... but sin is insidious, and must be met, not merely wished away. It took the death of deity in human form to do that, to as many as believed Him and received His purgative, purifying, pardon providing power in peace.
What then will the Lord Himself do, more than the nations did, after World War I. First, He has supplied these thousands of years, the available remedy.
What else ? With God and the assaults on His name, word, provisions and people, there are two differences between this human response after 1918, and His response at the end, to the cumulative and sustained wickedness of those who in effect seem to seek to take over the earth, and remove all that is called 'God' from the map of all things, putting their contriving selves in His place.
In fact, precisely this is seen to be part of what is coming to this world, as in II Thessalonians 2.
This includes a desperate devilish work: a more total perversion, deception and self-ascription of deity, to the maniacal ruler who is to come briefly to this fallen, unrepentant world. That which has to come is met direct also by an adversary when God arises in power to do far more than Normandy achieved. There is an impervious impact of desolation on ALL of this kind. The final victory is won at infinite cost (Galatians 6:14), and there is no revision.
When God so acts to engulf and destroy the evil forces, the triumph IS eternal, impenetrable and has no more sufferance for ANY attempt to make His people suffer. Hell and its finality, its continuity of devastation has this aspect, then, that there is NO route, path, way in ANY scheming, however scorchingly false as in the frauds of man, for restoration for the invasive evil. No more must the world suffer it. The time and purpose of such griefs is over.
The worm of their destruction will never pass away, and hopes of the resurrection of their depraved fantasies, are met not only with direct, divine rebuff, but with elimination of all force and substance whatever from their lying midst. As destruction continues, so "the smoke of their torment", that of the multitude of the finally judged anti-God activists ascends (Revelation 14:11) : in the double devastation of their beings and hopes, there is never to be any ground or substance again. The smouldering ruins will ply the sky with their devastated destiny. Their worthless words, so often touted on earth, will never again claim any success or impact. They are exposed for ever (cf. Ezekiel 39:21-29). Hell has no remission for their serpentine slaverings.