The various depictions of hell over the centuries tend to mirror the earthly landscape of their age.
Torture entered the conception of hell in the second century, when Christians were subjected to sadistic public spectacles. Roman interrogation methods included red-hot metal rods, whips and the rack. Lower hell is depicted as a walled city with towers, ramparts, bridges and moats; fallen angels guard the citadel like knights. Today, biblical literalists believe hell exists outside of time and space, in some kind of spiritual fifth dimension.
The buildings were connected by subterranean tunnels, so it was possible to spend months, particularly in the winter, going from class to the dining hall to the dorms, without ever stepping outside. We spent our free time quizzing one another on Greek homework and debating predestination over soft-serve ice cream at the Student Centre. Ideologically, Moody is a peculiar place. Despite the atmosphere of serious scholarship, the institute is theologically conservative, meaning that we studied scripture not as a historic artefact, but as the word of God.
Most of the professors thought the world was created in six days. Nearly all of them believed in a literal hell. One of the most invidious tasks of the conservative theologian is to explain how a loving God can allow people to suffer for all of eternity. God is omnipotent and Paul claims it is his divine will that all people should be saved — yet hell exists. He loves all humans — in fact, he loves them so much that he gave them free will, so that they could choose to refuse salvation.
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In this way, people essentially condemned themselves to hell. What bothered me was the numbers. In freshman year, every student was required to take a seminar called Christian Missions. During its first week, we watched a video that claimed there were currently 2. I tried to feel out other students to see if anyone else was having similar thoughts, but it was a dangerous subject. Our communal language was so rigid and coded that there was very little vocabulary with which to express doubt. A few students gave me knowing smiles and little shoulder squeezes, as though I was in the midst of some revelatory spiritual experience that would lead me to the mission field.
On Friday nights, I went down to Michigan Avenue with a dozen other students to do street evangelism. Instead, he memorised Luther and Zwingli and made vivid chalk drawings illustrating the plan of salvation, all of which made him pretty popular on campus. The rest of us handed out tracts to tourists and business people. We usually drew a small crowd — mostly men who were waiting for their wives to finish shopping and seemed to view us as a zany sideshow.
These terms were the water we swam in, but out on the street, against the softly lit backdrop of window displays, they sounded ancient and fierce. I knew how ridiculous we looked.
Maxine Outlaw (Author of Pray Like Hell)
These people already knew who Jesus was. We were speaking a foreign language. When Zeb gave the call to come forward and find forgiveness in Jesus Christ, our audience glanced at their watches, put their headphones back on, or yawned. While I was attending Moody, the most controversial church in the Chicago area was Willow Creek Community Church, out in the north-west suburbs.
One blustery Sunday morning in February, as I was walking to catch the train to uptown, faced with the prospect of another minute sermon about gratitude or long-suffering, I found myself suddenly veering across the campus to get on the Willow Creek bus.
Willow Creek was different. The Worship Centre seated 7, people, but it was sleek and spare, more convention hall than cathedral. Hybels preached in a simple Oxford shirt, and his charisma was muted, reminiscent of the gentle authority assumed by dentists and family physicians.
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The sermon was based in scripture. At first, it just seemed like the traditional gospel set to a brighter tempo. Our primary fault was not our sinful nature, but our tendency to think too little of ourselves. I never once heard a reference to hell. The goal was to work out why these people were turned off by the gospel, and then to create a worship service that responded to their perceived needs.
Essentially, this is consumer-based management. Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value? Harry and Mary were made uncomfortable by overt religious symbolism and archaic language. The solution was a more positive message: upbeat tunes, an emphasis on love and acceptance. Once I became aware of what was missing at Willow Creek, it was almost a game to watch the ministers try to manoeuvre around the elephant in the room.
One strategy was to place the focus on heaven, letting people mentally fill in the blank about the alternative. But away from the pulpit, these ministers were surprisingly traditional. In his book Honest to God? When we pray, something always happens. When we pray, we offer sacrifice to God. We are a priestly people, and the priesthood is all about offering sacrifice to God. We offer our time and mental and emotional investment to God in prayer, so he can do with it as he pleases. When we pray for others, we acknowledge the reality that God is responsible for the soul of another, and He lets us contribute!
How we pray for others is less important than that we pray for them. Praying truly is the most important activity on mission. What are some of the fruits or amazing things that you have seen in the lives of those you have been praying for? Please be prudent about sharing personal information about someone else online. This is the final post in a series about the seven last words of Christ.
To read the first post, This is the third post in a series about the seven last words of Christ. This is the second post in a series about the seven last words of Christ. To read the first Mark Bartek April 20, 98, 0. Share Tweet. Be the first to comment Share Tweet. Abraham had both Ishmael and Isaac. God sovereignly chose only one.
Paul narrows down the sovereign choice of God even further:. Speaking of Jacob and Esau, God is not talking about one boy or another boy. God is talking about two whole nations. To help us at this point, turn to Romans Four chapters earlier in this letter, Paul has already established this fact about God: a.
Were we making efforts to clean up our act and be more presentable when Jesus went to the Cross for us? Turn to 1 John Repeatedly in the Bible, God reveals one of His primary attributes. You find it here. God forbid.
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God pardons according to His sovereign will. No, not at all. If you want mercy, you can have it. And God wills to show you mercy. God is merciful. Now in chapter 9, we come to Pharaoh, the wicked king of Egypt. God created him so He could send him to Hell. The language means God raised him up to the very highest throne, giving him place, power and prestige so that God will be glorified by His judgment on this man. Turn to Exodus What about your heart? You can make the same choice Pharaoh did. You can harden your heart. The Bible warns against being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Turn to Hebrews Eventually, God destroyed Pharaoh because even with the patience longsuffering of God and the warnings He sent, Pharaoh would not accept those warnings. God has every right to punish sin because He will give us mercy if we want mercy. But the sobering thought is: if we harden our hearts, God will harden our hearts further.
Is that the case? Keep reading…. God, who is longsuffering, is forming, working, forming, but these vessels of wrath are not yielding to the hands of the Potter. All this is going somewhere so that it can bring about the best possible result. What he is saying is— 23 He waited with patience so that He could make known His rich glory to the people who receive His mercy. He has prepared these people to have His glory, 24 and we are those people whom God called.
He called us not from the Jews only but also from those who are not Jews. How does it make you feel to know that you are in this group, and that anyone who asks for this same mercy can receive it? What are your thoughts? Nothing you can do about it.
C. S. Lewis
Is that the kind of God displayed in the Bible or in the book of Romans? Listen carefully to understand what the apostle Paul is saying here. God did not ordain some for Hell. What potter would ever make a vessel just so he could destroy it? Can you imagine a potter in his shop making a bunch of vessels, setting them on a shelf, then making other vessels, setting them on a shelf, then taking a stick and just breaking one group to pieces?
He set out to do that? Of course not. God did not ordain some people to Hell. The reason some vessels were destroyed is they did not realize the purpose of the Potter. He cannot do wrong. No, there are some things God cannot do, and sin is one of them. Because to sin would be to deny His own character. He cannot deny Himself nor act in a way that is a violation of His character.
In the choices God makes, He cannot and will not choose to do wrong. We could go on all day with Scripture confirming that God judges from righteousness, not from pique, a bad mood, or a temper tantrum. This is one of the key passages in our study of predestination as it pertains to salvation.