The other day I overheard a conversation between a Christian and a moralist – it was a conversation centered around what happened when (or after) we died. While both started off on pretty much the same foot – life as a continous development of self, the importance of living a moral life, and the consequences and effects of immorality – the conversation quickly errupted into a heated debate at the question of purpose and death.
Disclaimer: Although fully aware of the fact thet there are numerous things I do not know and even more I probably never will, I’ll share my limited insight on this with you.. just in case you ever wondered (or one day will) about these things too. An Expose..
The first question was whether or not – should the gospel, Jesus, the cross and the blood really prove to be true – God, as a loving father, would really and truly be so evil as to condemn mankind to hell. Was hell even real? How could we be sure? Hell, that place described as painful and grim, with people gnashing their teeth and screaming in agony with no sign or hope for relief. Hell – however grim you might want to (or perhaps not) picture it, is really just the complete and total eternal absence of God – that is, if one believes in heaven: the complete and total eternal presence of the very same, God. Now I wondered: why would anyone want to spend eternity with a stranger? If heaven was indeed His resting place and the totality of His presence for eternity, why would one choose to deny Him on earth, but desire Him eternally – that is, if He was true? And so, the question of whether or not a supposedly loving and kind, good God would truly condemn the unbelieving (moral) person to a place so dark and grim and painful and terrible made no sense to me. You cannot choose to not want Him now because He does not exist in your eyes now, but want to be with Him forever, should He turn out to be true afterall.
The question that followed was directly related to this – the purpose of morality itself. As a Christian, naturally, I found it in Him. Just as there would be no darkness without light, there would be no immorality without morality, no knowledge of good without the knowledge of evil- and as a result thereof, no consequences for wrongdoing; and certainly non of eternal value. Why do right if there were no consequences for doing wrong? Why choose to be moral if immorality bore no negative effects? Why deny onself of the pleasures of the flesh if there were no damanging consequences to one’s eternal soul? Surely, it seemed, morality itself was hinged not merely upon the right now but upon right itself: the fact that in the grand scheme of things, beyond time and space, actions truly mattered: re-actions.
The third question, thus, dealt with the issue of carnality: man’s physical and mental ability to choose and act right. Beyond the free will and God’s gift of choice, man was constantly plagued (rather than blessed) with a plethora of options and possibilities: to live and act in accordance with laid-out principles or not. But here again, you see, was the question of whose principles these were. As a Christian, naturally, I choose His: His definition of what was acceptable or not; what was commendable or not; what was praise-worthy or not. As a Christian, I chose to submit myself to His definition, His judgement – in order to avoid being judged. Carnality, that is the carnal nature, stood in direct contrast to Him, I found. In choosing to humble myself, to submit myself and my right to choice to Him, I was no longer subject to the flesh, a slave to self, a subject of sin. In choosing Him, all I really did was acknoweldge that I was weak and in need of strength. In choosing Him, all I truly did was acknowledge my own limitations and the need for more, for Him.
When talking about judgement, you have to realize, there is no getting away from it. The verdict stands, as does the Accused besides the Accuser in front of The Judge. The verdict stands, as does the penalty: death. The verdict stands, but will you kneel? Before The Judge. Not asking for leniency – He will not grant it. Not asking for a re-trial – He will not permit it. Not asking for anything, but simply acknowledging Him: for taking your place although you did not ask for it, and especially because you did not deserve it.
The truth about God is that He is unchangeable: He couldn’t even change if He wanted to, for He could not possibly go back on Himself. Consequently, incapable of becoming unjust or untrue He chose to be merciful instead: to issue the verdict as well as pay the price. The price had to be paid, and so He paid it: Himself. In accepting the price paid, you accept the verdict (the penality of sin) and have become guilt-free; now permitted to claim a righteousness that was imputed: one that you could never have attained in the flesh yourself, a righteousness only made possible by choosing to be humble.
What hell is, I hope you can now see, is nothing other than eternal absence from Him. What He did through Christ was save you from this terrible possibility. Not from the devil, but from Himself – his judgement, that is.
And so the final question remains: When you die, where will you be? Without or without Him?