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Hell

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

“There’s something I don’t understand about God…”

So said Ezra, age five. As we were tromping through the old cemetery beside our house, he was asking about the people buried there. “Were these people Christians?” 

This little tromp followed closely on the heels of our visit to one of our friends whose wife has just passed away. “Was she a Christian?” 

I had explained to Ezra that she was a Christian and so she got to go to heaven, but that her husband, who is aged and, thankfully, left behind for now, is not. That’s why your Papa has asked him to study the Bible…so he can learn how to go where she has gone and so he can be with her again someday. 

“Did he say he would study the Bible?” 

“Yes, he did. So let’s pray that he listens and wants to obey God, so that he can go to heaven.”

And so came the common line of thinking that you and I have heard countless times. (I’ve just never heard it expressed by a five-year-old.)… “So this is what I don’t understand about God. You know, Mammy, that not all of the people who are not Christians are bad guys. Most of them are just nice people; but they are not going to get to go to heaven. People who don’t get to go to heaven are going to have to burn. So how can God do that to nice people?”

And that just about sums up one of the most pervasive of all theological questions: How can a loving God damn people to eternal torment?  

So I talked about this for a brief few minutes there in the cemetery with Ezra. I told him how this earth we walk on is just really a testing place. “God is giving us a chance to choose whether we will obey him—all of what he commands us—or not. He is seeing if we trust Him enough to just obey Him. If we look around us and see this beautiful world—that grassy field over there, the mountain behind it, these huge oak trees and even our own bodies that can run and chase each other—if we see all of that, we should know that Someone made all of it. If we search for Him, we can find Him in His Word and then we can know what He wants us to do. But we have to care enough to study His Word and find His wishes for our lives. If we care enough to do anything to obey Him, He will help us to know how to do it and He will be our Father and take us to live with Him, forever.”

Ezra responded….”I kind of understand all of that, but I think there are some parts of it that I cannot understand because I’m just a kid. I think I will understand it better when I’m a grown-up.” 

I did not want to burst His bubble and tell him that there are some parts of it that he will never understand. But I did add that the most important thing to God is that we trust Him enough to just do what He says even if we don’t always understand. 

Later in the week we watched that classic old Disney movie together: Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. He listened intently to a line taken from the ten commandments and another phrase repeated throughout the movie: “I make sure I’m right, and if I am right, then I go ahead.” 

Then Ezra said “Mammy, is Davy Crockett dead now?”

“Yes, he is, Ezra.”

“Well, was he a Christian?…because he acts like a Christian.” 

So now, reflecting on the week I just spent with that precious little five-year-old, I’m pretty sure he’s absorbing the truth that the most important thing about living, is dying; and the shape your soul is in when you do. 

As I was driving him back to meet his mama today, we had one final theological discussion. It started when he said something to purposely scare me and I quipped “Ezra, you are going to give Mammy a heart attack!” 

“Mammy, what’s a heart attack?”

After a little discussion about valves and blood flow, Ezra said. “Do you think I will ever have a heart attack? I’m kind of afraid of a heart attack.” 

I tried to reassure him that he is healthy and that, although he will one day die, it will likely be when he’s an old man and that he will probably never have a heart attack, even then.

“But, Ezra, you know every single person has to die one day.”

“Oh, I know that,” he said. 

And then I added, “…unless we are still living here when Jesus comes back in the clouds. If he comes soon and if we are still living, then we will never die.”

As I looked in the rearview mirror, I saw a look of excitement like I rarely see on that little face.  He said. “Do you really mean it?! You mean if we are still alive when He comes back, we will never die?!” 

“That’s right.  We will just fly up and meet him in the clouds and go on to heaven with him.”

“Oh!…Well then, that’s what I hope happens! I want to still be living when He comes back!” 

Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20).

Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom (Matthew 18:3).

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Stephen Hawking Dead at 76

Many, up until his death last week, thought he was the world’s greatest living scientist. Merging Einstein’s theory of relativity with quantum theory to himself postulate that space and time would begin with the Big Bang and end with black holes, he authored numerous books, including what was termed his  landmark work, “A Brief History in Time”. This one volume, among many he authored, sold over ten million copies. (He is pictured here with former President and Mrs. Clinton.)

In 1961, he was diagnosed with ALS  and given only a few years to live, but he was able to publish and speak through voice synthesizers for many more years than physicians had expected. He was an avowed atheist saying that “science can explain the universe without the need for a creator.” He also stated “When I speak of God I use ‘it’ as a metaphor for the laws that control the universe.”

It’s tragic that for the past five days (as we measure time), Hawking has come to understand, in the most horrific way, that God is not a metaphor. He has come face to face with the reality that, not only does God exist, but, rather than being a metaphor for all of the laws of science, He (God) authored those laws. He now knows, indeed, since God is not bound by any of the limitations of time and space that He (God) imposed on our universe, that God is unfettered in His power and authority. He is supreme and omnipotent. Hawking, who spent a lifetime denying the existence of God, would give anything today to be able to “spend” His new existence– to “use up” time in his new and tortured environment. He would love to be able to “spend” a million years in hell and be free from its everlasting horrors. He wishes now that the laws of time and space, the laws for which “god is a metaphor”,  would rescue his soul and, once again, control His world. If he had one more moment in time, he would confess God’s existence and bow before Him. But the reality that is outside our boundaries of time and space cannot be measured,  “spent” or “used up.” It is eternity. It is never-ending. When Hawking has endured a million years, he has not reduced his term in hell by one second. That is, of course, for anyone who experiences it, the ultimate tragedy.

A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another. Hawking thought of God as a figure of speech. He used the word “god” to mean the laws of science. Now he knows “what ” God is. He knows now, for sure.

Faith is the substance of the things we hope for as Christians (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is  that to which we cling in the here and now that gives substance to the hereafter.  If that’s the case, then surely disbelief is the substance of things dreaded in the life of an atheist.  ALS is a dreaded disease. Surely Hawking dreaded death, too. He knew pain during his life on earth.  But now he has tasted the full unending picture of eternal death. Skepticism and denial of the Divine is surely a sad way to live here on earth; but it is just the beginning precursor of eternal damnation.

Every time I consider the death of one who has lived a life of atheism, I feel sadness and great pity. But, as I think about the end of the ultimate rejection of God as Creator and Savior, I am also motivated–to study the Bible more regularly and deeply, to be ever mindful of the brevity of my own life and to cling to the substance of that for which I have the fondest hope. I know how fallible I am. I know my weaknesses and my propensity to fall if I “think I stand” (I Corinthians 10:24). I am so very thankful that the One Who has promised a way of escape with every temptation (I Cor. 10:13) is not a metaphor.

 

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