Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cleansing Lakes of Fire and Water

Hotter version: Our God is a consuming fire. God is love. Love is a consuming fire. Death and Hades were thrown into the Lake of Fire. Love is the Lake of Fire. ... a sea of glass, mingled with fire... standing on the sea of glass (the Sea of Love.) Is this Sea of Glass mingled with fire what remains of the Cleansing Lake of Fire? Or are they different bodies of heavenly fire? It is strange, perhaps shocking, to think that the light that would cause eternal day to exist is the same light that the unrepentant wish to hide from. They call upon the rocks and mountains to fall upon them (instant death) and hide them from the splendor of Him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. It would be nice if the "smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever" instead of meaning, as some have explained it, that the consummation is final and not everlasting suffering and punishment, it meant something else. Something finer, though without its problems.

If you have a very difficult child who hated you no matter what you did, but being his or her parent, you persisted in loving that child. If the state gave you the ultimatum of giving the death sentence to your own flesh and blood, or you continuing to love and, refashion that troubled and corrupt person, wouldn't the latter be the more loving for you, his parent to do? Does God stop loving the unrepentant sinner as they are cleansed in the Lake of Holy Fire? It is with understandable pain that the cleansing fire begins to do its devastating work. Could perfect love and its attendant holy fire not eventually work its miraculous change in the hating and hateful sinner to eventually restore the beauty of holiness and love in him or her after a renewing process? Is there such a thing as a truly unredeemable person? While I'm not saying all will be rescued from being eternally lost, I am saying all could be salvaged, as you would salvage the precious photographs left after a devastating fire, or destructive hurricane.

We've all known and know about truly evil and hateful individuals, I will not call them "persons," that is saved for people with some degree of humanity. Evil really is the worst form of mental illness or bodily illness there is. I don't say this to excuse "evil" individuals but to try to understand how or why someone came to be in such a deplorable state. Would not a loving God, because He loved that "dyed-in-the-wool" individual, be doing that person a great favor by slowly, even if painfully, removing the evil stain from the heart and mind, until the original childlike innocence could resurface again, and mature in a better environment with more nurturing people and circumstances? In this way, couldn't everyone eventually be renewed, and wouldn't they be grateful? I know of drug addicts or alcoholics who think they are fine the way they are, and don't want to be helped, because they don't realize how much better they would be if they were free of their addictions. But once helped, and reformed, how much happier and productive they would become.

If you love Him who first loved you, the nature of God will not terrify you, but fill you with awe and reverence. Our God is a consuming fire. If you hate Him who first loved you, God's nature will terrify you. "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the lamb. For the great day of his wrath is come and who shall be able to stand?"

These are not easy words to read or write, either for the believer, and especially for the unbelievers. But who are we, mortal beings, to question the will and nature of He who created everything that is, that was, and that is to be. "I am what I am. I will be what I will be. I will cause to be what I will cause to be."

Agnostics and atheists are no doubt applauding and shaking their heads in disbelief and dismay and disgust. Such is the nature of good and evil, of light and darkness, of life and death.

Cooler version: No matter how painful it may be to admit, or read, or ponder, "our God is a devouring fire." The God who needed to wipe out most of humanity with Noah's flood (whether it really occurred or not as a worldwide phenomenon) and the God who will plunge, if not most (only few find the straight and narrow road) then quite a lot of human beings into the cleansing lake of fire, is also the God who spared not His son and who will also give us everything. It tells you a lot about the person who in spite of painful images of past and future destruction of imperfect and recalcitrant human beings, still needs and wants to foster a faith relationship with this wondrous being who both created us and is capable of destroying us. "Even though he slay me, will I still love Him." "I will not let go of You, unless You bless me." "The Lord chastises those he loves." It's a bewildering type of apologetics. Were it not that we're talking about the author and finisher of our faith, we would have long ago abandoned him, and looked elsewhere. Our faith and life, as well, is full of oxymorons. I'm suddenly reminded of an odd statement by an Argentine pastor when I was a boy. He sometimes cursed his fate that he wasn't born on one of the many sinless worlds. I thought it peculiar that anyone would even think of such a preposterous wish. I hope we all get our wish and are reborn on a perfect world someday and never remember our perplexing, though often bitter sweet life on planet Earth.

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