Hell Defined

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I am told some preachers ask you to believe in God as well as love God because you will go to hell if you don’t. This I find sickening. How can anyone love God if petrified with fear of God? What sort of relationship with God can we have if it is based on being frightened to death of God. I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” God is love in a Spirit that reaches out to mankind.

The crux of the connection with God is grace that gives you a recognition of common grace and special grace that is redeeming love.

Common grace can be seen in the wonderful creations of nature, the impressiveness of the universes, and the gift to us of being. It also includes the loving attitude of God that allows us to enjoy our being. Special grace is seen in our redeeming by God and the gift of Christ. The Gospel of John 3:16-17 includes “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..” and continues, “God sent His Son not to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Our recognition of grace through grace sends us to belief in Him. We want a love for God that cannot be scared or forced on us. Love must be given. In grace when we recognize the grace of God, both common and special, we respond to God by belief and in tenderness. When we look around at God’s mighty acts and wonders, as we enjoy His Being, we see God is worthy of belief. There is a spiritual call to us that we echo back.

When it is said that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”(Psalm 111: 10 ) “fear” might be best translated “awe.” (I often do my own translating as you should too.) In awe of common grace and special grace we stand amazed. Before His Grace, common and understanding, we begin to understand and think of God. Belief follows. A relationship with God then follows belief and confirms belief.

I conceive of hell as absence from God. To be in it you do not have to die. There are plenty of people on this earth whose lives are a taste of hell. Some are steeped in evil and opposing God. Some are not aggressively evil but simply spiritually divorced from God. But to be absent from God is a taste of hell, though some tastes of hell are stronger and more bitter than others.

Whoever is absent from God suffers (even if they do not know it ) because their lives are not as full, spiritually whole and healthy as they might be.

I reason there are degrees of hell and some are more miserable than others. But all in it are to be pitied and we should try to love them out of hell as best we can. But I suggest an edifying view of hell is absence from God and the consequent waste and misery thereof.

My thoughts on hell should not be taken as doctrine or a substitute for scripture. They are personal investigative views and acceptance of them is not necessary for salvation. They are “for the edifying of the Body of of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12)

Mine are peripheral observations. My hope is these remarks may prove edifying to believers as well as nonbelievers. There are central issues and peripheral issues. My thoughts are peripheral and do not change the central theme that there is a hell and people put themselves in it through their own choices. They choose to absent themselves from God and the results are tragic.

Why do I view hell as beginning on earth? Since the joys of faith begin on earth and end more gloriously in heaven. There is no reason to assume hell is run on a different principle.

I urge you if you are going to be a Christian, do the right thing for the right reason. To be a Christian and have a relationship with God is the right thing. The right reason is love which begins in recognizing the grace and love of God and spiritually growing in the warmth and tenderness of Christ.

An old spiritual song says, “Keep your eyes upon Jesus.” In faith that is the way faith ought to be: Keep your eyes on God who is love.

Through love people are awakened from the selfish coma of life that many are sleeping in. Through love Christ is affirmed and our lives as Christians validated. By love we serve others who are as tinder for fire, and may need only a spark of love that may light a fire that will later flame.

Keep your eyes upon Jesus. Make His type of love your aim. In this way you will be sure to go to Heaven. You will not have to worry about hell.

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Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.