What Good Is Hell

George MacDonald (1824-1905)

I recommend the wonderful fairy tales and fantasies by George MacDonald (1824-1905) written not just for children but for the childlike. If you haven’t read The Princess and the Goblins, The Back of the Northwind or The Light Princess, you should start by reading them to your children or to your “inner child”.

George MacDonald inspired many authors, such as W. H. Auden, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, E. Nesbit and Madeleine L’Engle, GK Chesterton and Lewis Caroll.

C.S. Lewis wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his “master”: “Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours later,” said Lewis, “I knew that I had crossed a great frontier.”

MacDonald rejected the doctrine that Christ has taken the place of sinners and is punished by God in their place, believing that it raised serious questions about the character and nature of God. Instead, he taught that Christ had come to save people from their sins, not from a Divine penalty for their sins. The problem is not the need to appease a wrathful God but the disease of cosmic evil itself. “Did he not foil and slay evil by letting all the waves and billows of its horrid sea break upon him, go over him, and die without rebound—spend their rage, fall defeated, and cease? Verily, he made atonement!”

MacDonald was convinced that God does not punish except to amend, and that the sole end of His greatest anger is the amelioration of the guilty. As the doctor uses fire and steel in certain deep-seated diseases, so God may use hell-fire if necessary to heal the hardened sinner. MacDonald declared, “I believe that no hell will be lacking which would help the just mercy of God to redeem his children.” MacDonald posed the rhetorical question, “When we say that God is Love, do we teach men that their fear of Him is groundless?” He replied, “No. As much as they fear will come upon them, possibly far more. … The wrath will consume what they call themselves; so that the selves God made shall appear.”

~ John Cooke  (with thanks to Wikipedia)

Three views of Hell: I recommend Steve Gregg’s careful treatment of the subject.  Be prepared to have your thinking challenged  .http://theos.org/media/category/12/

Advertisements

Apocalypse Now ~ The Beginning is Near

The word “apocalypse” does not necessarily mean the end of the world.  It means “the unveiling” or “the revealing”.  If anything, it is more about beginnings than endings (although some things must end).

In the Apostle John’s prophecy entitled The Apocalypse (or the Revelation) there are a number of revealings or unveilings.  A door is opened in heaven and we get a look behind the door at the spiritual government of planet earth.  We are granted a “heaven’s eye view” of events happening in seven first century cities.   We are allowed to glimpse how things were to unfold in the near future of John’s day, things which were soon to happen on earth.  Most of what was revealed could be shown to have happened within the next few years.  Towards the end of the Apocalypse, the massive scope of Christ’s dream is revealed.  The sons and daughters of God are unveiled as a glorious Bride, a huge City, and as a great multitude that cannot be counted from every nation, tribe, language and clan.    As a result, the planet is also healed and made new.  “On earth becomes as it is in heaven.”

Most would agree that the Apocalypse has a victorious conclusion.  Cosmic evil is defeated and Good prevails.   The difference comes in how that is to happen.  Most Christians today would explain the Apocalypse as follows:

  • A small defensive remnant of faithful ones endures the furious attacks of a ruthless and powerful enemy.  Things continue to get worse and worse until, finally, when the last soul is saved.  The small faithful remnant is rescued and taken out of the world, while judgment falls upon an evil and rebellious planet.  Christ and the angels defeat the devil for us  and then set up God’s kingdom on earth.
  • Historically, however, most Christians have envisioned a much more positive and victorious apocalypse.   

The Nature of Prophecy

There is a “nowness” to prophecy.  Creative power is in the words.  The Creator began the process of re-creation when Christ rose from the dead.   The power to make dead things come to life is the most unique power in the universe.  That is the power that has been released in us.  The making of all things new is at work in us, and is designed to work through us.   In other words, the fulfillment of the prophecy is in our hands.  We have been given the responsibility for what happens on earth.  We are in charge in His name.  God has chosen to govern this planet through his sons and daughters, through our agreement with his dream.  We begin to dream what heaven dreams and say, “Yes”.

Prophecy is collaborative and interactive.  How much land and how many children do you want? How far can you see?  How much land can you place your feet on?  How many stars can you count?

The promises of God are ours if we believe them.  They are all “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ.  The resources to claim the promises are available to us (the same power that raised Christ from the dead).   If that is true, then why should any future devil, false prophet, anti-christ, or serpent, have even a pit to hiss in.  Why leave them even a square inch of the planet to scheme and deceive from?  Why should our eschatology leave us cowering in our churches,  hurling condemnation at the world, and waiting for the rapture to rescue us from a hopeless mess, that we were commissioned and empowered to clean up.

Dream the Creator’s dream with Him.   The glory of the Lord will be revealed.  It will cover the whole earth as the waters cover the oceans.   How will the glory be revealed?  Will he do it for us or through us?   Will not Satan be defeated by Him under your feet.  Will not the King return for a mature bride when she has “made herself ready”.  Perhaps we can offer to Him a redeemed planet.  Why not?

John Cooke – http://www.jfcooke.com

 

Ownership of the Earth

Most wars are fought over ownership of the land.  In most cases right of ownership is determined by whoever gets there first, or has the most strength (either military or monetary).

Consider some principals relating to rights of ownership:

1. The earth and everything in it, belongs to the Creator who divides the Land according to inheritance rights.  (Psalm 24:1)  Can we just take it and say it’s  ours because we are living on it or using it?  In any case it is only “ours” in “trust” to care for and manage according to the Creator’s Family values.

2.  Inheritance rights are based upon Family relationship.  Discovering our identity as sons and daughters of the Creator is essential to discovering our inheritance and passing it on to our children.  “You are my son…Ask me and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, and the ends of the earth as your possession” (Psalm 2)

3. Inheritance rights are rooted in our spiritual ancestry.  Our right to the land is not simply a matter of our genetic or ethnic ancestry. Here is where things get messy.

For example, the ancient arguments over sovereignty in the Middle East still hinge upon inheritance rights. Who are the true heirs of Father Abraham? Who inherits the Land of Canaan?
a. Ethnic or genetic descendants (Jew or Arab),
b. Religious descendants (Islam or Judaism),
c. National descendants (Israeli or Palestinian),
d. Those who were there first,
e. Those who claim rights of conquest.
f. None of the above

Abraham’s inheritance rights came from his identity as a spiritual son of the Creator. Those who inherit his promise are those who share the same spiritual relationship (not the same religion, not the same genetic code, and not the same ethnic or national origin).

“People (from any nation) who have the faith of Abraham, are his true children and heirs of the promise”  (Paul).

“Don’t say, Abraham is our father and think your genetic descent from Abraham gives you inheritance rights”.  (Jesus, my paraphrase).

The earth herself is wired to recognize its rightful heirs.   She suffers under the burden of violence and injustice. Murdered blood cries out from the ground. Land that is defiled or polluted will actually eject her inhabitants. “Creation groans in frustration and waits eagerly for the unveiling of the children of the Creator.” (Roman 8:19-22)

4.  Inheritance of the earth requires meekness.  “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).   What does it mean to be meek?

The original word in the Greek language is “praus”.  It’s a tough word to translate.  The closest is an archaic usage of the English word “gentle” meaning “one who is disciplined, not wild or unrestrained”.

For example, a wild horse becomes “gentle” when it is trained and has learned to bring its will into cooperation with its owner, trainer or rider.  A man was considered a “gentle-man” because he was refined, courteous, educated or honorable.

Imagine a mighty war horse joining the battle with his own cry of challenge, sharing his master’s passion and zeal with all his heart.  Imagine him charging into the fight with fire in his eyes, nostrils flaring, teeth bared listening to no other command or distraction, sensitive to the slightest shift of weight or pressure from the warrior on his back, who must keep both hands free to wield weapons. (These great horses would often listen to only one master.)  Can we think of such a horse as meek or gentle?

In modern usage both words (meek and gentle) have lost some of their original meaning.  We think of a meek person negatively.  He’s a lightweight, mild mannered, weak, even spineless and wishy-washy.  A gentle person fares better.  “He’s a nice guy, thoughtful, kind and sensitive.  She’s nice too, a sweet person, good to children and kind to animals.”

The Master isn’t saying, “Blessed are all the nice gentle people, for they will inherit the earth”.  He described Moses as the meekest man that ever lived.  Moses was no lightweight.  It takes more than being kind or nice to walk into Pharaoh’s court and demand the release of Egypt’s labor pool, millions of slaves.  How was this great “meekness” helpful to a nation of slaves searching for their inheritance?

Jesus described himself as meek.  “Learn of me for I am meek…” (Matthew 12:29).  When he cleared the temple court with a whip and zeal for his Father’s House, he was not being nice, but he was being meek.  When he called the religious leaders “hypocrites” and whitewashed tombs, he was operating in meekness.

Biblical meekness means “authority under authority”.  It means a son or daughter of the Creator’s Family operating on earth in joyful cooperation and agreement with the Government of heaven.  Jesus said, “If I am doing my own thing, then you have a right to say that my message and works are not from the Creator (paraphrase mine).   “The fruit of the spirit is…meekness (gentleness).”  It’s the way Family business is done.  It is how we possess what our Creator Father  has planned for us to inherit.

Apocalypse Dreaming

In my dream, a little girl was skipping along in a city square humming a few bars of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.  She stopped in front of a street musician and dropped a coin in his hat.  He began playing the tune as she danced and sang “…joyful, joyful we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of Love…” A violinist on his way to practice with a local orchestra stopped, opened his case and joined in.  Other members of the string section stopped and played along.  Violins, cellos, violas, base… then oboes, clarinets, saxophones. The brass came too: trumpets, trombones, French horns, baritones and tubas. A big kettle drum was rolled up and percussion was added.  Soon members of the choir began to arrive and sing “…hearts unfold like flowers before thee, opening to the Son of Love…” The song grew to a crescendo with full orchestra and choir.  The gathered crowd cheered.

When it seemed like the “Happening” had happened and the music had died down, there was a slight shift in the atmosphere.  I saw in my dream, a group of eagle dancers in full regalia bring their great sacred drum forward, with a new rhythm which sounded like the heart beat of the earth. They danced with flute and rattles, chanting a different melody, but somehow it was the same.  The choir and orchestra joined in rather hesitantly.  Other singers also were joining the choir, but soon there were many languages being heard.  Gospel and other cultural harmonies and chords were added to the classical. Street dancers, hip hop and rappers, a ballerina, and groups of ethnic folk dancers joined in.  There were Celtic bag pipes, Andean pan flutes, country and western line dancers, banjos, fiddlers and steel guitars.  Heavy metal and rock bands began to fill the air with walls of sound.  (I couldn’t tell where they plugged in their amplifiers.)  The great pipe organ and bells from the cathedral on the square added their great notes which seemed to shake the ground, but somehow they added to the music.  There were steel barrel drums with Reggae and Caribbean flavors, African drums and dancers, graceful Hawaiian and Thai dancers, Maori Haka dancers, great banner dancers from Asia, and huge Japanese Taiko drums.  All were adding to the music, building and enhancing the sound.

One would think that all the variety and diversity (more than Beethoven himself could have envisioned) would only result in confusion and noise.  Somehow, though, as if lead by an unseen conductor there were melodies, descants, embellishments, and counter melodies which all contributed to the same wonderful song of Joy.  When one style of music would subside, another would come forward.  That there could be such cooperation and unity in the midst of so much diversity was overwhelming to me, and I wept with joy.

My dream then seemed to fill with new excitement.  Song birds were adding beautiful clear high notes to the song (right on pitch).  High above an eagle’s shrill cry joined in, then there were many voices of many different animals:  a wolf howled in the distance, an elephant trumpeted, a lion roared (probably from a nearby zoo), and it seemed I could even hear distant whale song joining in. Then there was a rumble of distant thunder.  The wind picked up and sang its way through the buildings awakening wind chimes, whispering notes of joy through the trees and causing the grass and flowers to dance.  The waves crashing on the beach and the murmur of a nearby stream were part of the music.  As the instruments played on and the dances continued, it was as though the earth itself was beginning to move to the dance.  The sky began to fill with the colors of a gorgeous sunset  and a meteor shower.  The other horizon erupted with lightning flashes and thunder in time to the music.  It seemed like the rocks themselves were ready to cry out and the even atomic particles, quarks, quantum and mitochondria were electrified and resonating to the song of Joy. And I thought of the words, “All creation waits eagerly for the unveiling of the children of the Creator.” 

By: John Cooke ~ jfcooke.com