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By Dr Andrew Corbett
Heaven and Hell are commonly presented as either the benefit or the consequence of how a person responds to God. It's as if people think that the whole point of religion is to get people into Heaven and to keep them out of Hell. From this "religious" perspective, Heaven is Ultimate Bliss, Paradise, Perfect Beauty - while Hell is Fire, Eternal Punishment, Anguish, Torment, and The Devil's Domain.
In recent times there has come a lot of push-back regarding the very notion of Hell as it perceived by many. Among Christians who have rejected the classical view of Hell are several well-respected writers including John R.W. Stott, and George MacDonald. Responding to the resurgence of this idea, Dr Tony Campolo, in his last Evangelical work, "Speaking My Mind", argued that he was very emotionally drawn to accept the non-existence of Hell if it wasn't for the Scriptures!
Leonard Ravenhill in his book Why Revival Tarries recounts the last moments of Charlie Peace's life:
He was taken on the death-walk. Before him went the prison chaplain, routinely and sleepily reading some Bible verses. The criminal touched the preacher and asked what he was reading. “The Consolations of Religion,” was the reply.
Charlie Peace was shocked at the way he professionally read about hell. Could a man be so unmoved under the very shadow of the scaffold as to lead a fellow-human there and yet, dry-eyed, read of a pit that has no bottom into which this fellow must fall? Could this preacher believe the words that there is an eternal fire that never consumes its victims, and yet slide over the phrase without a tremor? Is a man human at all who can say with no tears, “You will be eternally dying and yet never know the relief that death brings”?
All this was too much for Charlie Peace. So he preached. Listen to his on-the-eve-of-hell sermon.
“Sir” addressing the preacher, “if I believed what you and the church of God say that you believe, even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be, on hands and knees and think it worth while living, just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that!” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Peace
"We must not ask where Hell is, but how we are to escape it." Chrysostom (In Rom., Hom. xxxi, n. 5 in P.G., LX, 674)
In a recent YouTube exchange of viewer comments about one of my videos (not about this topic) the viewer was rather hostile to the notion of a God who would send anyone to Hell. But his comments went far beyond what is normally discussed around this issue. Most of the discussion about Hell has been about whether it exists and therefore whether Scripture actually teaches it. Those who propose that Hell does not exist fall into two general categories: (i) Annihilationists - those who do not go to Heaven simply cease to exist; and (ii) Universalists - everyone goes to Heaven. But this viewer was neither of these. He had read parts of the Bible and seen that it discusses Hell, eternal Judgment, and everlasting damnation for some. His objection then was not over Hell's existence but over the morality of a God who would send anyone there. He argued that this made God worse than Stalin, Hitler and Pot combined. After all, he stated, how could a God who sent someone to Hell to burn, be tormented, and be punished for eternity for a sin that took no time at all, be considered a loving, kind, worship-worthy God? Like a lot of 'debates' which are highly emotive, this YouTube exchange didn't produce an acceptable outcome for my viewer, but now that the digital dust has settled a little, it might be about time to present a balanced case for the Biblical teaching on Hell which is hopefully less emotive…
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