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Saturday, June 20, 2009

New Covey Cover Awards

My book, Transforming Realities, is in the running for the New Covey Cover Awards. E. J. Mickels did a great job on the cover and I think it stands a good chance of winning. But to do that, enough people have to vote on it. The voting is already in progress, and ends on June 30, 2009. So I would appreciate all who like this cover to go and express your opinion by voting for it.

It is number 14 in the list. Be sure to click the right one!






Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Nature of Hell

Hell is not a place apart from God.

I know that may not be what many have been taught. Some may consider it a new concept that doesn't match the Bible's teachings. But if you'll bear with me for a few paragraphs, I'll show you how this ancient theological concept actually has abundant Biblical support.

But why am I throwing this out now? Quite simply, my Reality series has as its underlying theological foundation this fact. It is in fact God's glory, His unfiltered, unhidden face-to-face contact that either puts one into a state of heaven or hell based upon the person's relationship with Jesus Christ--their union with Him--so that His healing life can attune us to God's glory and enable us to live in it.

First, we must state the nature of God to understand the rest. Hebrews 12:29 says it most directly: "...for our God is a consuming fire."

We see evidence of that through the Bible. Deuteronomy 5:24-26:
and ye said, Behold, Jehovah our God hath showed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth speak with man, and he liveth. Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of Jehovah our God any more, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?

The same sentiment is listed in other passages like Deuteronomy 4:33, 18:6, and Psalms 50:3. The Old Testament also backs up what we find in Hebrews: Deuteronomy 4:24, "For Jehovah thy God is a devouring fire, a jealous God." Moses experiences God as a fire around a bush that doesn't consume it (Exodus 3:2). Fire is used to devour the sacrifices, the most dramatic example being Elijah's duel with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:25).

In the New Testament, not only does Hebrews state this directly, Paul speaks of it when he talks about those who enter the next life in less than perfect shape:
(1 Corinthians 3:11-15) For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if any man buildeth on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble; each man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself shall prove each man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work shall abide which he built thereon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire.

There are some key concepts in this passage. One, this fire is where the saved will be. This is God's nature as an "all consuming fire." It is coming into His presence which results in the dross of our lives being burned away. This is also stated in the Old Testament:
(Zechariah 13:9) And I will bring the third part into the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried. They shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, Jehovah is my God.

Two, it is taken as a given that those who don't have Jesus Christ as their foundation will experience this fire, but it will not be unto salvation or refining, rather it will be the second death, Hell itself. To be saved from this devouring fire, the minimum requirement listed is to have Christ as the foundation of our life. Those who are saved are enabled to live in the fire by Christ.

The premier example of that is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in Daniel 3. They refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar's idol, and as a result the king had the fire heated seven times hotter than usual and tossed the threesome into it as a punishment. What did the king see? He saw the three dancing in the fire, unharmed, and a fourth with them like the Son of Man. Theologians generally say this fourth is Jesus Christ with them. I have a scene similar to this in Transforming Realities. Indeed in each of the books of the Reality Series, you will find a place where the one wearing the ring goes through some type of fire and lives. This is a type of being able to live in the "all consuming fire" of God's presence.

But those who are not ready for it by the union with Jesus Christ will experience a different reality. Psalms 68:2 says, "As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: As wax melteth before the fire, So let the wicked perish at the presence of God." Again, we see that Hell becomes a reality not away from God's presence, but by being fully exposed to it.

This is why in Revelation 6:15-16 it says, "And the kings of the earth, and the princes, and the chief captains, and the rich, and the strong, and every bondman and freeman, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains; and they say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb." They fear His presence even as Adam and Eve did the day they sinned, for they lost the clothing of God's glory about them and could no longer bear God's presence due to their nakedness. It is for this reason that no man can see the face of God and live, as God told Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 33:20).

But on the last day, the Day of Judgment, that will change. Then His glory will be fully revealed and it will result in dividing the sheep from the goats, that is, those who have Christ as their foundation (Matthew 25:31-32). The result of that event is those who have not been healed by union with Christ will be forced to see God face-to-face in all His glory, and it will result in their second death.

"Wait! Hold on," I hear you saying. "Doesn't it say in that parable that Christ tells the wicked to depart from him into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels?" Yes it does, Matthew 25:41. Keep in mind two things here. This is Christ talking to them, so he does have a resurrected bodily presence. So there is a sense in which they will depart from Him. However, that doesn't mean they can depart from his fiery presence, for it is no longer hidden as it is now and fills creation. You see, when Adam and Eve fell, God allowed creation to fall with them so that they would not be immediately destroyed. Fallen creation acted as a buffer hiding the full presence of God from them. This is what it means that they were cast out of Paradise. But at the last day, creation will be redeemed and there will no longer be this life to hide from God presence. There will be no where for those without Christ to hide from His glory. Remember? There is no sun there because Christ's glory will be so bright there is no need for one. They will depart from his bodily presence, but not from his "all consuming fire."

In Revelation we see elements of this as well. John in describing what he saw around the throne says in Revelation 15:2, "And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire; and them that come off victorious from the beast, and from his image, and from the number of his name, standing by the sea of glass, having harps of God." This is known as the "river of fire" proceeding from the throne of God. This is representative of the fire that divides the sheep from the goats, refining and sending the former into heaven and the later into Hell.

But someone may still say, "But what about Lazarus and the Rich Man story Jesus told? It made it sound like the rich man was in a separate place apart from Lazarus and Abraham." And in this instance, yes they were in separate places. There's obviously a gulf separating them, but apparently of a different nature than distance since they could still talk with each other and the rich man seemed to think it would be possible for Lazarus to bring him some water.

However, the rich man is not in Hell as in the eternal lake of fire we've been talking about. Yes, some translations like the KJV use the word "hell" to say where he is, but the Greek word used here (per Strongs) is,
hades, hah'-dace

Properly unseen, that is, “Hades” or the place (state) of departed souls: - grave, hell.

When the Scriptures mean the literal lake of fire and not Hades, it uses the word,
geenna, gheh'-en-nah

valley of (the son of) Hinnom; gehenna (or Ge-Hinnom), a valley of Jerusalem, used (figuratively) as a name for the place (or state) of everlasting punishment: - hell.

This is why you will find some translations that use "hell" in relation to where the rich man is, but also Hades for that is the literal rendering of the word used, not the lake of fire. And there is a sense that the saved, like Lazarus, go to Paradise to await the final Day of Judgment, while Hades is the holding place of those who face death. That Hades and Hell are two separate realities is clear from Revelation 20:14, "And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire." Hades itself is destroyed by Hell. In the Reality Series, especially the last book, this reality plays a key part in what happens.

But it is because some reading that book where this division is made more clearer, they will have questions about both Hades and Hell not being the same thing, and what Hell really is, that I wanted to post this now. When people have those questions, they will have this reference to the theological reality being presented in the books. I pray this adequately clarifies and helps explain some of what happens in all the books, and how it plays into the final ending of the series and the ring's journey.