Going to Hell

I recently participated in a Bible study class written by Beth Moore, called “Believing God.” I had read the book over the summer, and wanted to enter a weekday study with other seekers. Sunday church is not something that Gregg wants to attend, so I thought it would be a good idea for me to go during the week for worship, prayer and study with my sisters in Christ.
The class was offered by a local church, and open to the public.

This church is about as far to the right as any church I’ve entered, and I am way to the left of their theology (as stated on their website). However, I felt that, if we are all sisters in the faith, we could come together in the love of God and His Word, and find fellowship there.

It is simply amazing to me that there are so many, vastly different belief systems and doctrines under the one umbrella called Christianity. It was an eye-opening experience to take this class in this environment; we heard the same message week by week, yet we interpreted it completely differently. Though some of the ladies were very kind, it was clear to me that I did not fit into their mould, and never would.

I eventually found that the class was depressing me. Not Beth Moore’s teaching, which I loved, but the host church’s interpretation and presentation of the Biblical themes. Please do not misunderstand: I am thankful that I was welcome to join this class, and I am thankful to the church and its members for providing it. I just did not feel comfortable with their view of God, man, creation and our mission and purpose for existing.

This is not to suggest that I am “right” and they are “wrong.” These are my sisters in Christ, and they are living their belief system with integrity – an admirable thing. I just didn’t see the JOY, FREEDOM – and most importantly, the unconditional LOVE – of God in it. The further into the class we went, the more I missed those essential elements, and the darker it seemed.

I’ve been wondering about the concept of hell lately, probably because of the time I spent in this church, listening to their views.

Those of us who feel we’ve already seen hell, or lived there, seem to have no need to create or believe in another, later-destination version of it. Those who have experienced hell seem to want to bring heaven to earth as much as possible, with love, kindness, ministry, compassion, forgiveness, healing and tenderness. Those who speak and express the most concern about hell (as a place one might go after death) make me wonder if they really live in daily fear of it – and wonder if they’ve ever truly suffered here in this life, or are simply braced against it.

In my opinion, if you’ve already been there, hell is no longer an intellectual construct, a doctrine or a place to be sent after death, but a reality of this broken world that cries out for redeeming, here and now. It is illness, decay, depression, death, the suffering of mankind…what could be more hellish than those?

I wonder if we aren’t actually called – each one of us – to “go to hell” here in this life, and to come out of it with a heart transformed. That seems to be one way of looking at the Paschal pattern. To be frank, it’s one of the only ways that I can make sense of the past six years of my life.

I love God deeply, but experience has made me a bit wary of what He allows, as the price is so very high – it’s everything! (Yes, I am mid-life, flawed, and still not totally surrendered to Him.) Yet what other option and relationship do we have? “Lord, to whom shall we go?” He is the One – the Way, the Truth, the Life, the great source of Love – our Creator.

I truly desire to serve Him and participate in His work of love in this world; it’s the only life worth living anymore. I prefer to see it as bringing a bit of His kingdom – heaven – into the present time and place, rather than fearing a possible hell in the future.

What do you think about heaven and hell? Are they here and now, in the hereafter, neither, or both?

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5 thoughts on “Going to Hell

  1. I believe Heaven and Hell are real places. I don’t beleive God wants His believers to focus on Hell…..He wants us to love Him, honor Him, worship Him, serve Him and to share Him and the goodness of Him. We cannot share the Joy of the Lord when we are focused on fear. My thoughts only.

  2. I believe that Heaven and Hell are intellectual constructs, a way that people strove to understand the duality of the Universe. I believe that when Jesus, the great teacher, said that “the kingdom of God is at hand,” he meant that it’s HERE, NOW, AT HAND.

  3. It’s interesting to look at those who suffer in this life. They are often the best people (like you), and not the worst people (like, say, Hitler or a child murderer). There is no pattern or justice to suffering in this world–at least not one that I can see.The most innocent often suffer in the cruellest ways. Jesus talked frequently about eternal life, heaven, hell and judgement, and it sounds like it’s real, it’s future, and it’s a place. Though we have qualms about it, He seems to feel it is important to warn us about it. Matt 25:46 “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” I figure if Jesus warns us about it, it must be something that we have some control over. In this world we have so little control over suffering, but it appears that we can by faith control where we spend eternity. If the good and the bad of this life is all the heaven and hell we are going to get, I am completely unimpressed. My hope is totally in Jesus and the world to come. It alone will make up for every injustice of this world. And the good news is that I am not the Judge. He didn’t ask for my opinion when He made this plan and seems to know what He is doing without my help. So yeah, I choose Heaven, and a new world, where death is gone and all my tears are dried.

  4. My friend Robin Craig of http://metanoia-mrc.blogspot.com/ posted this comment:
    “It is my son’s death by suicide that has moved me far from the idea that we can “control” our destination, whether by our own faith or by desire or anything else, and much closer to the Reformed faith view that it is entirely a matter of God’s grace. I am simultaneously far from traditional Reformed faith in that I believe that God calls everyone, and that we will all end up in God’s presence one way or another. This is hell enough for me, and it’s not possible for me to believe that the loving God I profess and sometimes know would consign anyone to something like this for eternity.”
    http://metanoia-mrc.blogspot.com/

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