The Paradox of Hell and the Love of God
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom everyone who does wrong or causes others to sin. 42 Then he will throw them into a flaming furnace, where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain. 43 But everyone who has done right will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. If you have ears, pay attention! Matthew 13:41-43 (CEV)
1 Michael, the chief of the angels, is the protector of your people, and he will come at a time of terrible suffering, the worst in all of history. And your people who have their names written in The Book will be protected. 2 Many of those who lie dead in the ground will rise from death. Some of them will be given eternal life, and others will receive nothing but eternal shame and disgrace. 3 Everyone who has been wise will shine as bright as the sky above, and everyone who has led others to please God will shine like the stars. Daniel 12:1-3 (CEV)
Heroic love for God and neighbor is, of course, closely allied to profound intimacy with the indwelling Trinity. To a large extent they are the same thing. We love Father, Son and Holy Spirit to the extent that we are in an intimate prayer communion with them which is lived out in our actions. And we have a vibrant love for our neighbors (spouse, children, friends, co-workers, parishioners) to the extent that we love God. The first and second commandments cannot be separated—as both Scripture and life experiences make clear.
Third, I strongly suspect that what goes to Hell is not the kind of thing we would recognize as a human being at all if we saw it. It is more like ashes. A damned soul is one who has made an ash of himself. Hell is fire. Fire burns and destroys. Just as what goes to Heaven is more human than it ever was on earth, what goes to Hell is less human than it ever was on earth. It has lost its soul, its center, its self, its I, its humanity, its personality. It has become “legion” (Mk 5:9). Compared with a person, it is what a thousand slivers of broken glass are to a mirror. It deserves not hope or prayers or pity, for there is nothing there any more to pity or to love, only dust to sweep into the dustbin. If time still held us in its grip in Heaven, we would remember what this thing once was—a person—and regret that it had not fulfilled its potential. But in Heaven all is actual and present for Heaven is our participation in God’s life, and in God all is actual and present. There is no regret or fear over what might have been or still might be.
I believe that Hell exists.
I have no other reason than scripture, though every man-made religion indicates some eternal consequence, so natural revelation indicates that God has put such a warning into the heart of mankind. There are passages that talk about it in the Old Testament, and Jesus doesn’t mince words about it in the New Testament.
There will be people that endure eternal shame, eternal disgrace, and pain like has never been known. And there will people who share in the glory of God and shine like the stars.
The question of how one reconciles that with a God who is love presents for some a challenge. Why would He create people who would spend eternity in eternal torment in a place He also created?
Kreeft’s answer is simple, we choose one or the other, We make ash of ourselves, emptying out of ourselves to be destroyed. We choose a life that is empty, not just morally, but of His presence. And that is revealed to be lifeless.
The option is to be involved in a intimate life of prayer, knowing God’s presence, knowing He is listening and cares, hearing Him speak to us. That eternal life begins here. This is why Old Testament Saints and New Testament martyrs wouldn’t choose idolatry if that meant they could avoid death.
God meant to much. That intimate relationship they had come to know was worth more than anything anyone could do with them. A life of prayer, of conversation and meditation makes all the difference. For that relationship is what matters. It is the difference between life and death, heaven and hell, abundance… or ash…
In the end, that is all we have…this amazing, wonderful, abundant and intimate life with God.
Living it in, is hat makes us holy.
Lord, have mercy on us, sinners who need Your presence revealed to us.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 155–156.
Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 72.