Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hell

Lake of fire*
Dark land isolated from the light*
Hell is 'all the rage' among bloggers these days as I noted on a post on the subject at Clayboy, so here's another little contribution to Suzanne's quest.

A friend sent me these lovely pictures of the full moon. They are suggestive - or perhaps my thoughts are a slight lunacy. Are we looking at a lake of fire (left) or is hell a dark land (right) which sees the light from afar and longs after it, not so much in punishment as in remorse, the angel that can no longer behold the face of God. Or perhaps these are two sides of a coin and David Ker is on the money with his clear statement that we speculate concerning the afterlife.

I have always considered that John 5:24 (past the judgment) trumps Hebrews 9:27 (after death the judgment). Having already died therefore, I find the judgment of God managed for me and not to be feared. So I can pray psalm 26 (Judge me יְהוָה) without dread knowing that the trial I have already experienced in psalm 6 (יְהוָה do not in your wrath correct me) which I have remembered per the instruction in psalm 38 (to remember) is manageable. For as psalm 53 (extending psalm 14) says - there they dread dread where dread is not there. (It really is so: שָׁם פָּחֲדוּ פָחַד לֹא הָיָה פָחַד - the red is dread).

Time is one of my three mysteries (along with consciousness and gravity). Why do we imagine that time is like a straight line? Is it not recorded of Jesus that he said - before Abraham was, I am? (See how much is learned from one verb, even one that is often omitted.) Does this verse not presuppose a subtending of time that is not interminable (having no termination either end)? Perhaps Milton's view of space-time as a globe hanging from the floor of heaven is not so bad after all.  (Four-dimensional of course.)

If God is not known in the present, then there is nothing to hope for. If God is known in the present then even the past is changed and seen as a path to such a present as is not to be repented of any longer for the beginning and end has been found. God known in the present. That phrase uses all three mysteries: God for gravitas, aka glory, heavy stuff; known for the consciousness of the glory, and present for the act of receiving the gift.

My preacher at school, a tortured man, brought hell to earth by his actions and so did not need to preach about it. Such things should not be said about 'Christians' especially those who are 'of the cloth'.  It is for such reasons that the name of God is blasphemed among the pagans. Pagans have a better idea of presence than some who study it. When love and desire are so easily distorted, as psalm 18 notes, the enemy is too strong for us, is it not wise to seek a greater strength?  Should, does the presence provide such? Yes it should and it does as the king notes in psalm 63
for it is good - your loving kindness - even over life
כִּי טוֹב חַסְדְּךָ מֵחַיִּים

Perhaps one can begin to see a theology coming out of the psalms that agrees completely with the reading of the psalms that Jesus knew in the days of his flesh. This reading  (as noted in Hebrews) defined his work under the anointing of the Spirit. These prayers are dialogue between God and the elect. (Why aren't you reading them, Christian?) They form a people who know mercy and who are therefore able to bind the kings in chains, (psalm 149) -- not that the kings should be punished in everlasting fire, or be deprived of light, but for their salvation. This is a binding dearly to be desired.

I do think there is everlasting fire. The hope is a marvel. But the fire is one as God is one. There is not a fire of wrath in hot red darkness and a second fire of love too bright to look upon, but a single consuming fire and non-consuming fire that is one love. How that love works out in our lives is a complex and inexplicable thing that perhaps can only be known, like the white stone, by the one to whom it is given. This is a gift of a name worth having.

So we should preach heaven and hell but not in a trivial linear fashion. There is a place where they meet - in the death of Jesus. The fire is a consuming fire and also a fire of recreation too bright to see at once but inviting a face to face engagement. A human's mind should be better than 'its own place that makes a hell of heaven and a heaven of hell'. A single self presented as a living offering will find it becomes proven, informed, inflamed, by the prayer of the Spirit who gives life to a mortal body. This is prayer worth being known in.

*Moonshots with thanks to the camera skills of Barb McDougall, Victoria BC (used with permission).