This week's memory verse:
"Being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." -- Philippians 1:6
Even though I rely on God's leading and pray for his peace every day, there are so many things that I don't understand about God and his word. Several years ago, I bought a study Bible that has a concordance...this helps me TRY to understand better. I can look up a word or phrase that is troubling to me, and look for all the times it is mentioned in the Bible. Then there are notes at the bottom of each page that attempt to explain what each verse is saying. There are still many things that confuse me or things that keep me thinking.
Hell is one of those things. There are some that believe that this life is as good as it gets...there is no heaven, no hell, just this life....when your dead, you're dead. There are several Bible scholars, including author Randy Alcorn, who believes this is true...for unbelievers. He says that for those who don't put their trust in Jesus, for those who refuse his gift of salvation, this world is as close to heaven as they are ever going to get. This world full of war, poverty, famine, disease, hardship...this is as much paradise as they will ever experience. And he goes on to say that it gets worse...they will experience hell on top of it.
In the Bible, Hell is mentioned 14 times, and Hades (the place of death) is mentioned 5 times. I looked them all up. Hell actually refers to a place near Jerusalem...a cavern where people threw trash, and where human sacrifices made by ancient pagans. Many times, fires were started in this cavern...making it a "hellish" place. Again, Jesus uses things people are familiar with to help them understand his teachings. When he mentions hell, he is talking about a place that you don't want to end up. (Matthew 5:22)
There are also verses where the dead are in hades or hell and are separated from God. Take Luke 16:23, where Jesus is talking about Lazarus and a rich man. Lazarus was a beggar outside the gate of the rich man's house. Both men died...Lazarus goes to the side of Abraham (Father of the Jews; home of the righteous) and the rich man was in torment in hell. These two places were separated by a deep and impossible to cross chasm.
I heard a pastor explain hell as a place totally separated from God. There may or may not be flames and terrible heat, but the torment of being apart from God and everything good, beautiful, pleasant, happy, restful and peaceful was apparent....for ETERNITY!
Why am I talking about hell today...well, that was the topic of today's Bible study...and it is one of those things I struggle to understand. Since I tend to be a worrier by nature, I worry about the people I love who don't believe in Jesus...I don't want my loved ones (and other people as well) to go to hell. I struggle to understand why God would destroy his creations just because they don't believe. Talking about hell makes me uncomfortable...but you can't avoid difficult topics just because they make you uncomfortable. I try to study and understand things better.
I do know and have confidence that because I do believe, I will see Jesus face to face one day...I will have all my questions answered and live in paradise for eternity. Why do I know that? Why do I believe something I don't understand? It all goes back to faith...believing in something you can't see because of all the miracles you can see. I have seen too much proof that there is a God...I have felt the peace and calm of his presence...I have seen the beauties of his creation and the marvels of the human body...these things bring me comfort and get me through each day...these things give me hope. I would much rather go through my life with this hope than to live a hopeless life of thinking this is all there is, and be separate from God for eternity.