Monday, October 29, 2012

Even in hell

‘The point of all our toiling and battling is that we have put our trust in the living God, and He is the Savior of the whole human race, but particularly of all believers’ (1 Timothy 4:10) has always intrigued me ever since I first read it. This verse, considered in combination with the more famous John 3:16, that ‘God so loved the world’ tends to remind me of the little known concept that when Christ descends into Hades, He empties it. Who wouldn’t go with the living God when He finds you where you are, even in hell, and bids you, ‘Come forth!’

For the fundamentalist Christian, you must accept Christ as personal Lord and Savior or you go to hell for your sins.

For the Orthodox, the personal Lord and savior ‘of the whole human race, but particularly of all believers’ even harrows hell to rescue the soul that nailed Him to the cross, ‘for God so loved the world, that He sent His only-begotten Son…’

God is mercy.


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Yes, the full verse, so as not to take it out of context or leave anything out, is, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. It is important to remember the whosoever believeth in him, as the precondition for everlasting life, but we cannot second-guess our God as to time, place and circumstance, but 'with fear of God, with faith and love' allow Him to work, not only in us, but in all mankind as well. His mercy is the precondition not only of salvation but of existence itself. Hence, in the humility of our human knowledge, we trust in God's love, and 'let God be God.'

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you meant everyone will be saved, even unbelievers and the willfully unrepentant. But, aside from whether all will be saved or some will be saved and some condemned -- what would spirituality be like if it were true? I mean, if all were to be saved? Why follow Christ if we are all going to be saved anyway? The only answer would be love, to follow Christ from pure love and not in order to get something or to avoid negative consequences. It would be for the relationship. Those who followed Christ would be better equipped to teach and serve, to spread the Gospel. While I do not accept that ALL will be saved (and I could be wrong), it caused me to re-evaluate why I believe in Christ and why I try to follow Him. In other words, what kind of person am I? What kind of relationship do I have with Christ? What motivates me? Do I really love Christ for who He is?

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

'I was wondering if you meant everyone will be saved, even unbelievers and the willfully unrepentant.' I think the best answer I can give to that question is to paraphrase C. S. Lewis, 'You can't go home without going home.' The very nature of what Christ does in emptying Hades is opaque to our reasoning, so anything we say to explain or understand it further is simply speculation. I am willing to live with the paradox of an empty Hades and souls who refuse to say 'yes' to God. We can know so little, and I think God intends that for a reason.

I know you don't really mean to say, 'Why try to serve God and follow Christ, if everyone, including intentional evildoers, is going to be saved?' The answer to this dilemma is obvious: To believe in, love and serve God already brings one into the realm of heaven, that is, salvation and eternal life. To reject, abhor and fight against God already places one in the only hell that can possibly exist. Here again, I am reminded of the Orthodox perspective on salvation. God is Fire. If you love Him, the Fire enlightens and purifies you. If you hate Him, you nonetheless must stay in His presence, and the Fire burns you. A final question might be, If the Fire burns you, are you simply annihilated, or shriven of your resistance? As you can see, more and more questions. Thinking about it turns into a path with no destination. That's because the destination cannot be reached this way.

As for what motivates you, or me, or anyone, to follow Christ, it seems to me that it is grace alone. Though I might think I want to follow Him, I must confess I am compelled, perhaps just as much as another man might be compelled to follow money. I am compelled to follow, whether I want to or not. Hence, my many falls. But by grace, I keep rising up and continue to stand.

Remember, Christ says, 'You did not choose Me. I chose you, and to bear fruit in abundance.' All that we can do on our own is nothing worth, except for the call of Christ. And when we know it is Him calling us, how can we not follow?

As for the emptying of Hades, He gives us the opportunity to help Him empty it 'ahead of time' or rather, 'just in time' as we follow Him in this world. Hades is already empty. We are only helping Him pick up the pieces.

Peter said...

I can't figure out where you're coming from! Revelation 20 clearly says there are souls in Hades and it says at a future date they will leave Hades to be judged by Christ. And then those whose names are not in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire.