Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Nature of God (Part 2) - Why does God send people to hell?

This topic became longer than I expected and so I had to split it.
Today I want to focus on the bigger question about the Nature of God.
And this is for people who have read the Bible...

Like I said about "Easter", we use that day to celebrate Jesus' sacrifice. However, some people, who may have skimmed over the Bible will think that there is quite a strange change between the Old Testament and the New Testament (these are the two main parts of the Bible).

The old testament is very different from the new testament.

The old testament speaks of the Almighty God and his power and influence on the ancient world. There are many wars that take place in the old testament and God himself has made it known through the prophets that it is He who causes the nations to rise and fall. He sent out plagues upon the Egyptians in order to free his people. He obliterated Sodom and Gomorrah. He wiped out the entire earth in a flood.

Then you may look at the new testament and read the story of Jesus. Jesus did not kill anyone. He healed the sick. He fed the hungry. He did not oppose the law, but even paid his taxes. He calmed the storm and walked on water. And when he was crucified on the cross, he forgave everyone who did this to him. On top of that, the act of sacrifice was to forgive the whole world of its sins. As long as people believe in his sacrifice, he offers them salvation... eternal life...

The old testament is full of God's wrath. There is much bloodshed. He even commands the Israelites, His chosen people, to destroy and conquer other nations.

The new testament is full of God's mercy. The only bloodshed is the sacrifice of martyrs who are persecuted and killed for their beliefs. God commands the believers to preach the gospel to all nations and to love your enemy. No killing. Only love and peace.

Why is there such a difference? Is this really the same God? How can Jesus and God be alike when it looks like the two testaments are completely contradictory?
Honestly, this is a really difficult thing to explain, especially to someone who does not or will not read the Bible. But I will try to explain this as best as I can.

Before we continue, we must make one assumption that is based on the Bible:
God is in control of everything.
To some, the concept is comforting. To others, the concept is scary.

Some people have this idea that God is some old guy who lives in the sky and created everything but doesn't really care about what he created. This idea of God is very different from how the Bible describes God. According to the Bible, God cares for everything. He is always in control. It is God who chooses where you are born. It is God who provides for all the living creatures, telling them where to go to find food and shelter. It is God who determines when you are born or when you die.

People don't like the sound of that. People like to be in control of their own lives, their own destinies.
We do have control over certain things. Unless we are being held against our will, we can choose what to do, where to go, what to eat... We do have some freedom. It's called free will. How then is God in control?

God controls our CIRCUMSTANCES. We control our DECISIONS in those circumstances.
There are circumstances to everything, and in those circumstances you make decisions based on what you can or cannot do.

How much control does one really have? If people put their mind to it, they can surely try to achieve great things. Some people might try to walk across a continent,  swim across a large body of water, or climb the highest mountain. But can you choose when or where you are born? Can you, as a fetus, declare that you don't even WANT to be born and would rather just stay in your mother's belly? There are things that are out of our control. Pertaining to death, you can certainly take your own life, but... can you control where you end up after you die (assuming there is an afterlife, the existence of which you still have no control over)?

Why am I writing about these things? Because there is something I want to make clear. God wants to save people from the ETERNAL death. God uses his control to accomplish this goal.

As long as we are on this earth, we are going to die. We cannot avoid this. Science can maximize your life span by keeping you healthy, but it cannot make you immortal. Whether a baby dies as soon as its born, or whether a man lives to a hundred and dies of old age, they both die in the end.
I don't want to make light of death, but this is the fact. You cannot escape physical death.

Then what is important? Is living your life to the fullest important? What's the point of it? Everything that you do right now... will be forgotten. Even as I write this blog I know that these words will not live on.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT? If we will die, then death (as an inevitable fate that we will all face) is important! And what is MORE important is what is after death... Heaven and hell.

What does Heaven and hell have to do with the Nature of God? The existence of Heaven and hell once again allows us to see that nature. God is trying everything he can to save us from the eternal death, that is... hell.
You may ask, "Why would God create hell in the first place? If God loves everyone, why does he have to send people to Hell?"

The important thing to remember here is that the current image and concept of hell is one formed by the human imagination. The Bible does not say anything about God creating hell. If you have a Bible, or you could just go to Biblegateway, check out the first verse of Genesis and confirm this to be true: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 

It does not mention hell.

Hell may not be a place he needs to create. There are no words in the Bible that say that God created a terrible place full of torment where he calls upon demons to torture people for eternity. This is just what people have imagined. As a Christian, I believe what the Bible says, not what people say.

In fact, the Bible says very little on the topic of hell. It only tells us what we need to know: hell is a place where the fire never goes out AND if we are not saved, we will be thrown into hell.
Fire? Fire is a physical thing. It is something we experience on this world. Hell is a spiritual thing, a separate existence from this earth (otherwise we'd be able to find it).

What we can conclude here is that the concept of fire is a REPRESENTATION (a symbol) in a way that is easy for us to understand. It may not be a literal fire at all. It could just be that the fire describes a painful feeling of torment. But where does this torment then come from? The torment comes from ourselves--our sin torments us. Hell... could just be a place where we are thrown... a place of true separation from God... and by being completely separated from God (the source of all good) we drown in the fires of our own doing/ and as demons (fallen angels) are separate from God too, we can certainly expect to find them there as well.

Okay, so hell may be of our own doing... but then why would God send people there?
Ever hear the saying: "My house, my rules"? Heaven is God's house, so to speak. If you don't follow the rules, you are simply kicked out. Unfair? If you barged into a stranger's house, would they not kick you out? If you don't follow God's rules, you are a STRANGER to God! It's not like his rules are complex. It's not like he's telling to you swim across the Pacific ocean, win the lottery ten times in a row, and eat a mouthful of poop. He's just telling you to believe! Because whether or not you get into his kingdom is up to him!

This is the reason why God is the same in the old testament and new testament: the situation is severe, therefore God methods MUST be severe. God does not want to kill, but he has no choice if people refuse to repent of their sins.
I don't want to continue this post for much longer so I'll only go through one example: the global flood.

Why did God wipe out the whole Earth in a flood? It states very clearly in the Bible that at that time mankind was terribly wicked and their thoughts were only full of evil all the time. You may think: "Oh, it can't be that bad, can it?" Ah, but there are criminals in this world that are full of wickedness, such that even if you give them a second chance they'll commit another offense. Imagine a world FILLED with these kinds of people who are willing to kill, steal, cheat, lie, abuse, assault...all the time! This is the kind of world they lived in!

You may think: "Oh, but I'm different. I would never do such a thing." Or "Society is different now. That was the past."
You think that way because things are (relatively) peaceful nowadays. But the world has always been filled with crimes against humanity. Take a look at War Crime . You'd think a soldier would have some code of honor. You'd think a soldier would be disciplined. But in a war against another nation, these soldiers are quick to exploit the population--mass slaughter, mass rape of women and children...and these things happened less than a century ago(see WW2) in a time when we could've considered people to be civilized!
And these crimes still continue today in countries full of war, turmoil and strife.

Why did God have to flood the Earth? Because people are easily influenced! If you are taught from the moment you are born that killing is good, would you think otherwise? But you were taught differently, which is why you can't understand what it feels like to be on "the other side" of the perspective. Even young children in some countries are given guns and used in war as soldiers. Killing is a way of life for them because they feel as though they don't have a choice. In some countries killing is more acceptable than in other countries! In some countries the abuse of women is seen as okay because the man "owns" the woman! It's not simply just about right and wrong. Even culture plays a part in morality!
In order to save the future generations from the eternal death, God HAD to erase the great wickedness on the earth. If God had not done so, then the children will all grow up to be like their fathers and mothers, doing whatever wicked thing they please. And then all the future generations will have been led to their doom--complete separation from good in the place known as hell.

I have gone on long enough about this. Perhaps I will continue this again another time.