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Friday
Apr242015

The National Anthem of Hell

Two recent events prompt me to write on a subject that's out of vogue in the Western World.

Hell. The eternal place, after death, where people are separated from God.

The first driver of this story is the tragic crash of Germanwings flight MH370 which dive bombed into the French Alps on March 24 on a routine flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, Germany. A suicidal pilot deliberately brought down the aircraft with 150 innocent people aboard.

The second circumstance is quite different--the April 24 "coming out" interview on ABC of Bruce Jenner's transgender conversion. These extremely different stories have one thing in common.

In the background of each story, I can hear the national anthem of hell.

Let's first talk about the hushed up subject of hell and why some people go there following death. Then we'll analyze the two stories that prompt the writing. Finally, I'll reveal what I believe is "Hell's National Anthem."

There are actually two.

Hell is not a popular subject. Simply put, it is the place of the disobedient dead where those not reconciled to God spend eternity away from his glorious rule. Many cultures and religions mention hell, giving a universal witness to its reality.

I've noticed something in my global studies. If an idea or concept seems to show up in many unrelated cultures and nations, it's not a coincidence. It's probably true though the details may become altered or embellished over time.

For example, we find the original creation and world-wide flood stories (among others) all over the world in ancient cultures. They are a "memory" of a truth that all human beings once shared.

That's also true of hell. Many cultures and people groups describe an eternal place of suffering and death that is related to man's actions on earth. 

The basic idea is this. If people live in right relationship with the God of the universe, then after they die they go to a place where his presence is manifest and where loving relationships are forever. But if people do not give God and others their right place, at death they are sent to another eternal world.

Hell. 

The most famous allegory about hell is Dante's Inferno (Italian for "Hell"), which is the first part of Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem. It was one of the most read and respected literary pieces during the Renaissance and Reformation period.

 

The multi-act poem tells the journey of Dante through hell, the place of the disobedient dead, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. Dante describes hell as nine circles of suffering located within the earth. 

 

In the poem, Dante and Virgil escape hell's agonies and emerge from it--warned that this is a place of suffering and regret where they don't want to spend forever. If you want to read it for yourself, you can download it here.

 

We tend to think of Jesus--the Savior of the world--as loving and gracious toward all human beings as evidenced by his life and dying on the cross.

But interestingly, Jesus spoke more about hell than any other person in the Bible. He said it was originally created for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), it is a place of fire and burning (Mark 9:42-48), a place of judgment for the disobedient (John 5:24-29), and includes crying and pain (Matthew 8:12). He also told a graphic parable about hell--the moral being that you don't want to go there (Luke 16:19-31).

Scripture also tells us that hell is "away from the presence of the Lord" (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9) and a place of "outer darkness" (Jude 13).

To summarize, God needed to create an eternal prison somewhere in the universe where selfish and disobedient angels and humans don't ruin the atmosphere of heaven.  Human governments do the same thing on earth. We have prisons for the rebellious to protect the law-abiding.

Human beings are immortal. So there must be a place for the good (those who give God his rightful place), and those who don't. 

The criteria for going to hell is living a life of sin and not being reconciled to God. If I were sharing this message in lecture form, I would grab a magic marker and write a word on the board.

sIn.

There are constraints in this blog, so I can't make it as big as I would in person. Notice that the "s" and "n" are small letters. But the "I" is big or capitalized. On the white board I would make the "I" about two feet tall and the "s" and "n" about two inches high.

Use your imagination and you'll get the picture. To live a life of sin, all a person needs to do is center their life around the "Big I"--to live for themselves. It's all about ME. They don't love and submit to God--the greatest, most wonderful Being in the universe--and they also don't love other people as they should. 

That's the basic definition of sin.

Heaven operates by the opposite rule or law. God is first to be worshipped and loved, and others are equal in value. Since all of us fail short of this standard, God found a way to reconcile us through Jesus' death on the cross, our faith in his sacrifice, and the regeneration and empowerment by the Holy Spirit. 

Thus our faith leads to love and our born-again spirit allows us to enter the joys of eternal life. The opposite is also true. If we are unwilling to stop being God and living for the Big "I", then God has no choice but to place us in hell when we die.

Rick Warren was right when he opened his best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life with these words:

It's not about you.

No, it's not if you want to go to heaven. But that's exactly what takes you to hell--self-focused living. Heaven would become hell if rebellious angels and humans resided there.

Which brings us back to the Germanwings pilot and Bruce Jenner. The young pilot who cruelly killed 150 people by deliberately flying the aircraft at hundreds of miles an hour into the mountains did so for one primary reason.

Self.

The Big I. It's all about me. I will take my own life, and that of many others, deny the reality of God and do what I want. It was a shameful act. A hurtful action. Devoid of any love of God and others.

That's the motive of a person who ends up in hell.

Bruce Jenner is different, even says he is a Christian, but the motivation is the same. He was born a man, became a famous athlete, fathered six children and had three different wives. But, he wasn't happy and has now changed his gender. Why?

Same as the Germanwings pilot. Self. The Big I. It's all about me. I will do what I want to do to "discover my true self."

(Jenner's gender change is only the latest sexual deviation from God's wise blueprint for morality. The first was easy divorce and adultery (1950s & 60s), then widespread fornication (70's & 80's), homosexuality (90's & 00's) and now transgenderism (2015).  This is not a slippery slope. It's a moral plane crash.)

Jenner didn't seek God's counsel and help, accept his own creation, be faithful in his human relationships, or be content with his own physical make-up. He went against his Creator did what he wanted to do to try and find happiness.

He's not alone. We all have struggles, problems, sins, and questions. But we also have a choice as to what to do with them: 1) Trust in God and allow him to help and transform us, or 2) Do what we want to do.

The choice comes down to God or Self. And that decision determines your eternal destination.

A song which sadly captures the essence of self-centered living was made popular by Fank Sinatra. You might call it the "National Anthem of Hell." It's called

My Way

And now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain. My friend, I'll say it clear, I'll state my case, of which I'm certain. I've lived a life that's full. I've traveled each and every highway; And more, much more than this, I did it my way.

Regrets, I've had a few; But then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do. And saw it through without exception. I planned each charted course; Each careful step along the byway, And more, much more than this, I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew. When I bit off more than I could chew. But through it all, when there was doubt, I ate it up and spit it out. I faced it all and I stood tall; And did it my way.

I've loved, I've laughed and cried. I've had my fill; my share of losing. And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing. To think I did all that; And may I say - not in a shy way, 'Oh no, oh no not me, I did it my way'.

For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught. To say the things he truly feels; 
And not the words of one who kneels. The record shows I took the blows - And did it my way! 

Yes, it was my way.

If you live a selfish life, not caring to kneel before the God and Savior of the world--if you choose to do it "My Way" instead of the humble and wise "God's way," then this is your eternal anthem.

But the Bible actually reveals another song in the eternal abode of the selfish. It's actually not a song, just a reality. It is this:

Silence.

My personal belief is that hell is a place of eternal solitary confinement, in outer darkness, away from God's presence and love. That's why people weep, gnash their teeth and suffer. There are no parties there, no friends, no love,

The absence of God is the absence of life and all relationships. All that reigns is aloneness--your own anger and tears.

You're left in total silence because you did it "My Way."

You lived by the national anthem of hell.

 

 

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