Tuesday, 1 March 2011

To Hell with Joy

You may have noticed by now that all this talk of Hell has gotten under our skin here at AEN. Simon’s post yesterday spelled out three major doctrinal consequences of denying the reality of Hell. Today I would like to add another pastoral/ doxological reason why Hell is important, and it’s this:

The reality of Hell is a source of sober joy for the Christian.

Without having read the book 'Love Wins', it is still fair to assume that Rob Bell wishes us to rethink our stance on Hell. And whether his desire is to declare it 'empty' or to erase it from our theological frameworks, the sad fact remains that to tamper with the doctrine of Hell is to tamper with Christian joy.

Time and time again in the New Testament Paul speaks of God’s work of rescuing us from judgement in doxological terms; that is, Christ’s saving us from hell compels us to worship him:

"and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."  (Col 1:12-14)
And again:
"For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." (1 Thess 1:9-11)
And again Paul recounting the mercy he received bursts with praise:
"But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Tim 1:16-17)
And finally the heavenly multitude praise God saying: 
"After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: 
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.'
And again they shouted:
The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.'
(Rev 19:1-3)
Paul new the reality of his sin but staring into the abyss he was then able to turn aside and say simply that, “…God has not destined us for wrath”. It is therefore little wonder that the chief of sinners flung himself before the throne of grace in adoration and worship.
In the same way; Hell, our rescue from it and the full disclosure of God’s righteous judgement ought to leave us abandoned to the praise of his great grace. Our voices must join the cry of the saints in worship because God has been vindicated, and we have received grace upon grace.
If you get rid of Hell, not only does the whole doctrinal house of cards come crashing down but you silence the quiet ‘hallelujah’ which resounds from the hearts of every believer who embraces the reality of Hell and allows it to magnify the salvation which is theirs in Christ Jesus.