As many of my readers may know, I have been studying the teaching of hell for a few years. I recently picked up a book called Spiritual Terrorism, written by Boyd C Purcell, and as I ventured through the pages, I came across a listing of ten reasons the author considers Eternal Conscience Torment (ECT) as impossible.
Each of the ten reasons are based on a particular passage of Scripture that I propose we consider in relation to this topic. Food for thought for those willing to consider.
Let’s begin with Matthew 5
Matthew 5:43-44, 48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The Unchanging Character of the Father
Although I referred to the book “Spiritual Terrorism” above, I would like to supplement this post with an additional author from two centuries ago. His name is George McDonald, an ol’ Scottish preacher who lived in the 1800’s His writings are challenging and have influenced many believers, such as Lewis Carrol and (through his writings) C.S. Lewis. He is commonly considered a universalist, though he never called himself such.
A short discussion I recently found by Mr. McDonald seems very pertinent to our topic.
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect.” “Love your enemies, and ye shall be the children of the highest.” It is the divine glory to forgive.
Yet a time will come when the Unchangeable will cease to forgive; when it will no more belong to his perfection to love his enemies; when he will look calmly, and have his children look calmly too, upon the ascending smoke of the everlasting torments of our strong brothers, our beautiful sisters! Nay, alas! the brothers are weak now; the sisters are ugly now!
His second paragraph is challenging. How can the One who “changes not” change from being a merciful and forgiving God we all have come to know, to One who seeks retribution, suffering for the sake of justice, and misery upon His “enemies”?
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Before my readers bring up the topic of the necessity of judgement, let me admit and confess that I believe the Scriptures on the teaching of the wages of sin being death. I do not seek to remove hell from the Word of God, although my understanding of this topic is continually being challenged.
I confess that even as a believer, I continue to offer up to our Master sadness and heartache with my decisions and actions that do not reflect His character. Hell is a reality and judgement day is approaching for each of us. Personally, I cannot understand the grace and mercy He has provided me so far, but He has been faithful, so faithful to me. To my readers, if you too have experienced the mercy of God in your life, leave a comment below, describing His mercy in your life. It may be the encouragement some soul needs to hear!
Note that He commands believers to be like Him, to forgive, to bless, to love, to pray for those who are our enemies. We are to live this way in order that we may be perfect as He is.
Let me reiterate, that He only is perfect, perfect in those attributes that Jesus speaks of in the passage, attributes of blessing and forgiveness. This command is for believers to pursue, and as we have come to understand the commands of God, they are to be recognized as a reflection of His own character, of His glory and being. It is an amazing teaching the Lord gave to us in this passage, in that He based His command to followers to love and forgive on the very nature of God.
God does not ask us (require of us) that which He does not have within His own nature!
I suppose it comes down to this. Am I limiting the Father’s unchanging nature and character of forgiveness, even through the terrors of hell? Or to consider it from another perspective, is there a set time only for each soul in that His forgiveness is available?
Grudges & Vengeance
One other item to note, is that the very passage the Lord refers to in Matthew 5, (Leviticus 19:18) speaks of the believer not bearing grudges, or taking vengeance. Even in the Old Testament (as we should expect, since He changes not), the nature of the Lord was the foundation of the command for the believer’s actions and heart life toward our neighbors. No grudge is to be nurtured. No vengeance to be exercised.
You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
The believer is commanded to enter frank and honest reasoning with their neighbor. What a lost relationship skill in this age of “social” media, but I digress.
How do you see this challenging passage in Matthew? Is there merit to Mr. McDonald’s understanding of the unchanging forgiving nature of the Father? Do you believe the nature and character of the Father will switch from One who forgives to One who seeks vengeance and retribution upon a soul entering death? If so, is there allowance for the believer to also have opportunity to switch from a forgiving spirit to a vengeful spirit?
Let me know, for I have had some whoppers of neighbors (thankfully not currently) that in my opinion, certainly deserved my vengeance!
How do you “see” the Father?
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