Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Heaven's Gates and Hell's Flames

I watched a performance of the Heaven's Gates and Hell's Flames show at a nearby church last night. A co-worker was in the show and she got a bunch of free tickets, so a bunch of us went to see her in the play.

I thought the actors did a fabulous job with the show considering that they only had two days to memorize their lines and blocking. Throughout the play, groups of people die, and then they are painfully separated outside of the gates of heaven. Some are dragged screaming into hell with the devil maniacally laughing at the crowd, and some are greeted by Jesus at the top of the stairs after an angel finds their name in the Book of Life.

In one particularly mind numbing scene, a little girl and her mother are outside the gates, and the mother is being dragged into hell while the daughter screams "I love you mom! Don't go mom!" After her mother is thrown into the eternal fire of hell, the angels sing hallelujah, and Jesus comes out to bring the little girl into heaven.

Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't think it will be like that at all. I'm not saying I don't believe in Hell, but I am saying I don't believe in a merciless Christ.

This is what I think. After I die, I'll arrive at a place right outside heaven, and I'll see things I have never seen before. I'll see angels. And like every human being who saw an Angel in scripture, I'll be afraid of them. I will remember my own unholiness, my own unrighteousness, and I will drop to the ground in fear. Beyond the Angels there will be a lake of fire. Beyond that lake of fire I will sense the undeniable force of the most Holy God looming at the horizon flooding the land beyond it with his Omnipotence, his Omnipresence, his Holiness, his Righteousness. I will sit outside those gates looking at the terrifying wheel-shaped Angels with many wings and hundreds of eyes, and they will comfort me. They will tell me not to fear. They will explain to me that God is in the land beyond.

"The Lord God resides beyond the Lake of Fire" they will say, "And you may join him there. In order to go to him however, you must walk through the fire here. In that fire, all of the filth and sin you acquired on Earth will be burned away. When you get to the other side, you will be clean and new, and there you will join with God. "

At that point, my heart will swell, and I will remember the God that I longed to see while alive on Earth, and I will swallow my fear, and through a faith that Christ has indeed forgiven my sins, I will venture through those gates and into Heaven.

Through those gates there will be a raging fire. That fire will burn like the furnace of the sun around me, and as I walk through that fire, I will maintain my faith that the work of Christ will preserve me as my sins are consumed. I have faith that I will not be destroyed in that refining fire. I will feel myself being purified as my sins are eaten like chaff in the fire. After my walk through the fire, I will find myself in Heaven with God. What that will be like, I refuse to guess.

Someone else will die after me. That same person will see those same angels and will have the same fear. Beyond those angels, that person will sense the same perfection looming over the Heavens. That person will be told to walk through the fire just as I had done, and that person will then do so.

As soon as that person steps into the fire, he or she will realize where it is that he or she is going. They will consider the sins that they have committed, as these things are burned away during their walk through the fire. If this person has no faith that Christ has forgiven them for their sins, they will fear that they are going to be consumed along with their sins. At that point, when their faith in the salvific power of the Cross is lost, that person will loose hope. In fear that the fire will destroy them entirely, that person will stop in the fire at the point they have reached thus far, and remain there, afraid to go any deeper lest they be consumed. That person will be in Hell, and there he or she will remain.

But, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'll get to Heaven and God will be there casting people into a lake of fire and making little girls cry as their mothers are sent to eternal torture. But personally, I see the scriptures depicting a different God. I see a loving God who accepts anyone who wants to be with him. I see a loving God who forgives people through the work of the death of his son on the cross, and I see salvation being conditional on our reliance on that sacrifice. If we have faith in Christ, it is through that faith that we will see heaven. Without that faith, we will not survive the refining fire, and we will not see the Kingdom of God. I guess we'll see.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Respectfully I must say I agree that when we really arrive at the gates of heaven, you're right, it probably won't be like the drama of Heaven's Gates and Hell's Flames. It will be more glorious than anything we can describe. And, for those who choose not to serve Jesus Christ here on this earth now, Hell will be more vivid and more devasting than our finite minds can imagine. Also, we will realize that we will be separated from the presence of God for eternity.

Pastor Gary Smith
The Assembly of God Tabernace
1580 Agape Way
Decatur, Georgia 30035
404-284-5683

We are having this drama, Heavens' Gates and Hell's Flames on October 9th, 10th, and 11th. We invite you to come and make your own observation.

karin said...

I hope you understand where I am coming from here, but the Bible says very different things than what you are writing here. Because Jesus died for our sins, we as His followers 'have been crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.' Galatians 2:20. This life is the only chance we have to walk by faith toward Christ through the flames you describe, by crucifying daily our flesh to do God's will and not our own. When Jesus Christ died for us, He said a single Greek word meaning 'Paid in full.' At that moment, He took away ALL the past, present and future sins of every single person who ever lived. The only sin we can commit that will keep us apart from God after death is not accepting Jesus' sacrifice for our sinfulness. From your writings, it sounds like you don't believe you are forgiven fully by Christ's death, since you think you will be walking through hell to get to God after death (as though that would pay for anyone's sinfulness anyway!-would some have greater misery than others in their walk toward God?). That really makes me sad, because if His death doesn't make you holy and righteous before God as the Bible declares, there is no more sacrifice for your sin. As soon as we embrace the salvation Christ gave us on the cross, which begins the process of getting to know and love our God in heaven, He sanctifies us 'by the truth, Your Word is truth.' John 17:17 I pray you will get into the Word of God and really examine what He says about forgiveness of sins, sanctification, justification and righteousness. '4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.' Ephesians 2:4-7 If we are seated in the heavenly realms, that doesn't sound like walking through fire to me. I love you and pray for you. (I found this blog on accident through google by the way). please forgive me if I stepped on your toes, I just really want you to know the confidence that you can have in God. It's so important that people know the choice here on earth before it's too late.

Joshua said...

A few thoughts in response:

You said: "This life is the only chance we have to walk by faith toward Christ" - Where does Scripture clearly support this position? I am not aware of any verse in the whole of scripture that says that people cannot come to know Jesus after they die.

"From your writings, it sounds like you don't believe you are forgiven fully by Christ's death since you think you will be walking through hell to get to God after death" This is a misconception about the post. I do not think I will walk through hell, but rather through the "Refining by Fire" described in Scripture. Those who survive the refining by fire, went through purgatory. Those who do not make it through the refining, remain in Hell. The image I have painted is actually in line with Scripture in that regard. The entire thing is contingent upon two things: 1. Jesus all atoning sacrifice for our sins, and 2. Our faith that Jesus sacrificed himself for our sins. Notice, according to the post, it is those who do not have faith in the salvific force of Christ's sacrifice that cannot get past the flames.

"I pray you will get into the Word of God and really examine what He says about forgiveness of sins" We have a difference of opinion. Please do not assume that a difference of opinion implies that I am not in the word of God. I have studied the word of God since I was in second grade. I get up every morning and read Scripture, and have committed my life to an accurate understanding of the whole of Scriptures. While I do not assume to have achieved that, it is my honest desire to do so. Perhaps I am being overly sensitive, but I take offense to the implication that a different opinion regarding the doctrine of Hell implies that I am Biblically ignorant.

All in all, this post was merely meant to be a thought experiment. All analogies fall flat when evaluated too deeply. The point is to stretch conception, to think about something that is impossible to imagine, you must paint a picture with what we know. Please do not take this post as the last word on my opinion about the afterlife. It is merely a thought. Likewise, please understand my sincere misgivings with the play. That was the main point of the post. I think the play is graceless and theologically unsound. While there are certainly errors with my little analogy, I see those errors as less divisive than the errors of a play that leaves babies screaming watching their fathers being dragged into Hell. I do not see that as an accurate picture of the afterlife, and I certainly see nothing in Scripture indicating that I will have to endure the torment of watching unbelievers suffer the fires of Hell.

Faith Van Horne said...

I realize this post is more than half a decade old, but I wanted to comment.

Perhaps I am being overly sensitive, but I take offense to the implication that a different opinion regarding the doctrine of Hell implies that I am Biblically ignorant.

I've encountered this attitude as well. It's unfortunate that a fundamentalist understanding of Scripture prevents some people from accepting alternate viewpoints. No human can say for sure what happens after death. My own understanding differs from yours, but I have no evidence to prove either of us is more or less correct. For all I know, the afterlife contains a multitude of options that are shaped by our beliefs during life.

Intelligent people read the same words and come to a differing understanding of their meaning. The best we can hope for in life is to discuss these ideas and come to our own peaceful, cooperative understanding, and implement that understanding in positive ways.

Joshua said...

@Faith,

Thanks for the kind comments. It's nice to run into you!

Anonymous said...

Your job as a future mother is to learn the god's ways and to help your child understand despite the negative reinforcement and conditioning of today's society. Without consciousous parents the child will have no hope, and may even exaserbate their disfavor by becoming corrupted in today's environment.
Your ultimate goal is to fix your relationship wiith the gods and move on. You don't want to be comfortable here, and the changes in Western society in the last 100 years has achieved just that.
1000 years with Jesus is the consolation prize. Don't be deceived into thinking that is the goal.

The gods tempt people for which they are most weak. Artificial Intelligence will create desire in people's minds for the following sins:::
1. Alcohol
2. Drugs
3. Preditory "earning"
4. Homosexuality
5. Gambling
6. Something for nothing/irresponsibility (xtianity)
7. Polygamy/superiority over women/misogyny (Islam)
Much like the other prophets Mohhamed (polygamy/superiority over women/misogyny) and Jesus (forgiveness/savior), the gods use me for temptation as well. In today's modern society they feel people are most weak for popular culture/sensationalism, and the clues date back to WorldWarII and Unit731:TSUSHOGO, the Chinese Holocaust.
It has been discussed that, similar to the Matrix concept, the gods will offer a REAL "Second Coming of Christ", while the "fake" Second Coming will come at the end and follow New Testiment scripture and their xtian positioning. I may be that real Second Coming.
What I teach is the god's true way. It is what is expected of people, and only those who follow this truth will be eligible to ascend into heaven as children in a future life. They offered this event because the masses have just enough time to work on and fix their relationship with the gods and ascend, to move and grow past Planet Earth, before the obligatory xtian "consolation prize" of "1000 years with Jesus on Earth" begins.

The Prince of Darkness, battling the gods over the souls of the Damned.
It is the gods who have created this environment and led people into Damnation with temptation. The god's positioning proves they work to prevent people's understanding.
How often is xtian dogma wrong? Expect it is about the Lucifer issue as well.
The fallen god, fighting for justice for the disfavored, banished to Earth as the fallen angel?
I believe much as the Noah's Flood event, the end of the world will be initiated by revelry among the people. Revelry will be positioned to be sanctioned by the gods and led for "1000 years with Jesus on Earth".
In light of modern developments this can entail many pleasures:::Medicine "cures" aging, the "manufacture" of incredible beauty via cloning as sex slaves, free (synthetic) cocaine, etc.
Somewhere during the 1000 years the party will start to "die off", literally. Only those who maintain chaste, pure lifestyles will survive the 1000 years. They will be the candidates used to (re)colonize (the next) Planet Earth, condemned to relive the misery experienced by the peasantry during Planet Earth's history.
If this concept of Lucifer is true another role of this individual may be to initiate disfavor and temptation among this new population, the proverbial "apple" of this Garden of Eden. A crucial element in the history of any planet, he begins the process of deterioration and decay that leads civilizations to where Planet Earth remains today.

Only children go to heaven. By the time you hit puberty it is too late. This is charecteristic of the gods:::Once you realize what you have lost it is too late.
Now you are faced with a lifetime to work to prepare for your next chance. Too many will waste this time, getting stoned, "Hiking!", working, etc.

Anonymous said...

i wonder if it ever comes to boise id?

Angelique Elizabeth said...

Where can you buy the movie heavens gates hells flames?

Missmars said...

Anonymous- I'm not sure where you getting your doctrine but it is no where in line with the Bible, word of God. This is false.

Anonymous said...

1 Peter 3:18-20 with 4:6 demonstrate a Good Shepherd who walks into hell to break the gates down and set the prisoners free. The presentation you mention sounds demonic in its glorification of terror. It does not convey the merciful Spirit of Christ.