What’s up with this Hell Business?
I think the most striking characteristic of us humans in regard to our behavior is how we are driven by our moral sensibilities. That is, we all want to be morally right in all that we do. Perhaps it goes even deeper: we all want to be seen as being right and good. That leads me to conclude that we all really intend to be good and known as being good.
This doesn’t square well with the threat of being thrown in hell. We’re doing the best we can. God knows that to “to err is human” – so said Shakespeare, and “only God is good” – Jesus said that. Does that qualify us to go to heaven?
Try to imagine how good is God: always completely and supremely good. That’s what holy means. It’s actually amazing that he even wants humankind to dwell with him in heaven. Here’s a picture of what heaven looks like from the book of Revelation, 21:4: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
That looks quite different from life on earth. So how can we imagine that we qualify for heaven in the state we are in? As good as we think we are, how do we become so good as to live in love as God is love? Do you imagine that we won’t be free to do wrong? Is there love without the freedom to choose love?
I think we can be unaware of how much we are prone to not choose love. It’s easy and preferable to believe others are responsible for making us choose wrong. No doubt they are. But given the chance to eat the proverbial forbidden apple once again, how many of us might fall again?
We desperately want to be good and don’t intend to be bad. But even those who try really hard to be righteous become aware that no moral code or religious law is strict enough or clever enough to avoid wrongdoing by human effort. Some of us just give on the idea and ignore our conscience.
The truth is that we all know our condition deep in our hearts. We’re not good. We’re dangerous. And we need a way to be made completely righteous in order to be accepted into heaven.
This is the “good news” message of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. Not just completely forgiven of our sins – that no other religion or moral code offers – but in believing this message we receive the Holy Spirit so as to be empowered to live a new life, even starting on earth. As St. Peter wrote:
3His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
What does it mean to reject this message of reconciliation and the gift of the Holy Spirit? Don’t continue putting off your nagging conscience. Here’s your big chance to make a clean start with renewed power to live in love as you seek to become fit for heaven.
Thus, He does not “send to hell” anyone who has no opportunity to receive the message of the life of Jesus. That’s not what the message is all about; and no, I don’t know what happens to them. All I know is that God is wholly just and good and isn’t driven by the doctrine that would contradict justice.
Hell is simply the place where God doesn’t dwell; only those who don’t take the opportunity to become fit for heaven dwell there. Some may say there’s a good party going on there, but I’m afraid you won’t have earth’s pleasures on hand in that place.
To sum up: Seek heaven, and you will end up there.
God is completely just, fair and good, and made humankind in his image with a passionate desire to see each person embrace righteousness – hence believe in Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit, live the Spirit-led life, and dwell in heaven for eternity.