Todays Scriptures: Gen 42:1 – 17, 1 Cor 5:1 – 8, Mark 3:20 – 35
I often talk to people who are not Christian. Some of them go to Church, some does not. A common question, or topic of discussion among non-Christian people, is heaven and hell. For some reason this subject seems to be at the forefront of the nominal (non-proper) mind. One wonders why this is so? Why is heaven and hell a concern for the nominal or even secular person.? I believe it is appearing in their minds because heaven and hell is a universal reality. This reality is “hardwired” into our being. It is one of those subjects that God has kept in many people so that people will continue to ask questions, and finally turn to Him. People are drawn to this subject because it is part of reality. It is God, reminding people of eternal things.
Saying that, our scholastic, legal and western view on heaven and hell is very much corrupted by the very sins and systems that “hell” contains. The church (small c) has on more than one occasion through history been a part of hellish systems of fear, dirty politics and pride. The end result being that most of the western hemisphere of Christianity believes heaven and hell to be actual places, geographical locations. One of eternal suffering and punishment. One of eternal bliss, joy and peace. Through history, artists have tried to describe heaven and hell with color and fantasy, leaving a very vivid picture on what those two places look like. But this notion is wrong.
Heaven and hell, I would claim is rather a sense of direction. Heaven is the direction towards God. Hell is the direction away from God. I would claim that Gods presence, His eternal “Now” is torment and burning “Fire” for the person who lives in sin. I would also claim that the same “Fire” is empowerment, love and life for the person living according to His will. Listen to St Symeon the new Theologian,
“God is fire and when He came into the world, and became man, He sent fire on the earth, as He Himself says; this fire turns about searching to find material — that is a disposition and an intention that is good — to fall into and to kindle; and for those in whom this fire will ignite, it becomes a great flame, which reaches Heaven. … [T]his flame at first purifies us from the pollution of passions and then it becomes in us food and drink and light and joy, and renders us light ourselves because we participate in His light.” (Discourse 78)
Also listen to St Isaac the Syrian
“It is totally false to think that the sinners in hell are deprived of God’s love. Love is a child of the knowledge of truth, and is unquestionably given commonly to all. But love’s power acts in two ways: it torments sinners, while at the same time it delights those who have lived in accord with it. (Homily 84)”
I often wondered how Jesus could descend into hell if hell is being “apart” from God. But hell is not being “apart” from God. Hell is being in the presence of God but refusing to be in communion with Him. Hence “hell” is a child of human pride. Adam experienced hell when he was hiding from God after he fell into sin. The prodigal son experienced hell when he refused to stay in his father’s house. Hell is being lonely with ones sins. Hell is full with demons because they are the thoughts you can not forget and forgive without Divine assistance. Hell is addiction to things that does not contain life by themselves. Hell is eternal until the day you turn around, and by Gods grace, discover the state you are in. You understand that you need Christ to take you out of this place. You discover that He is already standing at the door to your heart. He has the keys to the gates of hell. He unlocks your heart from the inside because Jesus conquered hell, He conquered the most evil corners of your heart. He released the captives held “there” because the power of the devil, sin and death can not contain the Author and Sustainer of life.
The realities of heaven and hell are as close to you as your own heart, or your choice. They are not distant “locations” in the future. The mustard seed of heaven is either growing within you or not. Hell is only eternal for as long as we trust our own ability to find the peace our soul are searching for. Hell is only eternal if we deny our need for the Holy Spirit to cleanse us in a baptism of water and fire. Hell is eternal and currently present for the pride and the unrepentant. But as Christians, are we not supposed to follow Christs example and spread Gods love and glory even in hell?
By Christs power the fire of torment, becomes the fire of cleansing. And from the ashes (the cleanest material there is), from death, from the grave we begin our journey towards Him. Him being our current reality but also our destination.