Monday, February 22, 2010

Dante's Inferno

"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here". So reads the sign above the gate of Hell in Dante's literary masterpiece The Divine Comedy. Though a work of fiction, the imagined words accuractely capture the biblical description of Hell. It's referred to as eternal, a lake of fire, and a place of torment. Jesus talks about those who "go into hell, into the unquenchable fire…where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched" (see Mark 9:43ff). It is a place of utter misery, void of all hope and comfort, where people suffer in conscious torment for all eternity.

Yet we live in an age where such unpleasant ideas are shunned in polite Christian conversation. Few believers ever talk about Hell--except for those rabid fundamentalist firebreathers (and you sometimes almost think they WANT people to go there). But the biblical teaching--and the message of Jesus--is crystal clear: Hell is real, real people are there, and ultimately most human beings go there.

This isn't because God isn't loving. Quite the opposite. When a human being rejects God's love & peace (expressed through Christ), the only thing left for all of eternity is wrath & misery. Yet the great message of the Gospel is that we can be freed from that future! No believer in Jesus Christ will ever have to eternally abandon hope, because our trust and confidence is in Jesus Christ--the one whom the Bible calls the "Blessed Hope". The great message comes with a great promise: "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:1), because he has "delivered us from the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

One gate says, "Abandon all hope"; the other, "Enter into joy". Which will you see?

No comments:

Post a Comment