“Why go for Jesus? All the fun people will be in Hell.”
That’s not a verbatim punchline as far as I know, but it’s the jist of a lot of stand-up jokes about the relative value of living for God in this life vs. living for oneself. And it’s funny, I’ll grant you. Any decent comedian can get at least a chuckle from me with a joke like that. Really, I do have a frickin’ sense of humor, folks, despite being a born-again Christian. Lewis Black, George Carlin and everyone in the Original Kings of Comedy tour rank really big in my comedy pantheon.
And you know what, I might even agree with the joke. A lot of the “fun” people probably are in Hell, and they might very well be having the time of their afterlives right now.
It’s a popular notion that Hell is all about torment and gruesome punishments but let’s face it, the Bible makes analogies about Hell; it uses imagery. Nowhere does anyone, to the best of my knowledge, really give a detailed description of what Hell is and what goes on there. Dante had some fun playing around with the concept in The Divine Comedy, and the Sandman series of mature comics (a literary classic in its own right) also had some interesting opinions on what Hell is and why people really end up there, particularly in the “Season of Mists” story arc.
I don’t necessarily believe Hell is about tormenting folks directly. I think Hell is about making the wrong choice for eternity and putting your heart and soul into bodily pleasures rather than earnestly desiring something better. I think it’s entirely possible Satan has made Hell a very fun place for a lot of lost souls. Party central. I imagine he didn’t make many (if any) rules for people to follow. Which probably also means people probably abuse each other in the name of pleasure, too, but that’s a whole other story. You can probably get as much food, drink, drugs and sex as you could possibly want. And you’re already dead, so nothing to worry about, right? Pleasure without judgment or consequences. Every man and woman can reach for all the pleasures they couldn’t get in life and more. Fun stuff.
Until you finally exhaust the limits of carnal pleasures and realize how empty the choice really was. When you finally notice that you had a soul with so much spiritual potential and decided to ignore that. That’s the point at which you come to the knowledge that you utterly spurned Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit, and went for the base and limited pleasures. How much pleasure is endless partying going to be after a few dozen millenia? I doubt that Satan is setting out any meaningful pursuits. I’ll bet he’s setting out a very attractive buffet of nothing but carnal pleasures.
But you know what? God ain’t giving us harp lessons in Heaven, people. I don’t know what he’s giving us, but I know it’s going to be fantastic, and it is only a soul that seeks him and that admits its failings and sins and desires for something so much better that will be admitted to Heaven and equipped to do those fantastic things. In the comment section of one my recent posts, I mused a bit on what the afterlife might hold. Just to give you a sense of the huge things that could possibly be in store, I’ll share it again with you here (it’s a bit longish…if you want to skip the preamble and set-up, you can skip to the last paragraph of my ramblings):
Let’s imagine that you are a being who has created a universe. You have created servants to be part of your comings and goings through the cosmos (those would be the angels) but what you want is to populate the universe with beings who are not simply spiritual creatures who SERVE you but beings in your own image (spiritually) who can LOVE you. Freely. And thus bring you from being a singular being to the head of a family.
So, you decide to start small because, after all, you’re dealing in eternity here, and if you do anything fast, you’re going to have a lot of time to kill. You create beings (or modify beings) on one insignificant rock in the universe and give them that spiritual spark that mirrors your own spiritual blaze. You give them free will so that they can choose to be part of your family or reject you and be part of Satan’s. Your first two beings out of the starting gate, not completely unexpectedly, take the seemingly more attractive path of disobedience, and mar their spiritual natures in such a way that they essentially become dead to you.
But you still have love for them, and so you work within the tainted and fouled pool they have created to bring forth, thousand, tens of thousands or millions of years later, a being who embodies your spiritual nature but is, unlike you, in physical form and can bridge the gap between you and your lost children, thus creating a way for the family to begin forming up again.
Of course, this is still a huge work in progress, because the system you have set up is about faith and spiritual existence and sinless behavior. It’s your rules, still, and people are a long ways from internalizing those rules and, more important still, doing it because they WANT to and want to love you and not because you force them to. So humanity, even after the arrival of Jesus, continues to be a haphazard mix of the faithful and faithless and fence-sitters. But you know that as things progress, you will get a certain critical mass of those who choose your path.
Now, why choose one planet? Why choose a certain group (the Hebrews) to start fixing the mess humans made? Why choose one savior? Because again, you’re dealing in eternity, and there’s no rush. In fact, to do things in a rushed fashion is simply to create the end YOU want without getting any satisfaction (or us getting any growth) from the process.
So, let’s fast-forward to the end times, whenever they come. The situation on earth reaches the tipping point you’ve been working toward, when you finally bring everyone who’s willing into the family fold and finally settle the nonsense with Satan and the people who even after spending time disconnected from you after death and aware that they are spiritually dead, still don’t want to be connected to you. Now you have a new heaven and a new earth…you have sons and daughters who have shucked off their mortal coils and want to be with you as family and not created servants like the angels are. There is still a universe out there. Untold numbers of planets and a spiritual family that finally gets what you’re about (or mostly does). If you started things rolling on earth but planted the seeds for life in millions of other worlds as well, now you have young races coming up to whom you and your children can go, and build up THEIR spiritual natures in a similar manner. Perhaps, with your family having your spark but not your omni-everything power, your new sons and daughters maybe even create worlds of their own or small universes or whatever else. In other words, there is plenty of work and plenty to do, even with eternity staring you and your children in the spiritual face.
So, there may not be any fires to sear your eternal flesh or pitchforks to prod you in the ass if you go to Hell. But what’s going to happen when it all ends and Hell is cast into the Lake of Fire and you’ve still decided that you don’t want to give up on that big party Satan’s been throwing? Now you’ve earned yourself eternal separation from God and everyone else in Heaven. I suspect that once the baser pleasures have been exhausted, eternity is going to start looking pretty awful.
That’s just a theory. But it’s often conjectured that we create and choose our own Hell. And a lot of people are going to assume Heaven is all about bowing and scraping before God’s throne instead of realizing that God is a pretty big thinker. He has grander plans for us. Things we cannot imagine. But we have to want what He’s offering and reject what seems like so much more fun: sex, drugs and rock-and-roll for eternity.
Finally, we disagree.
Now I can rest easy.
I personally think Hell is a pretty bad place with a whole bunch of torture going on. I think your idea that Satan just lets people run amok and do what they want is an understandable conclusion, but I think the Bible makes it fairly clear that there will be pain and torment in Hell.
I know you probably saw it as a strict allegory, but the story about Lazarus the bum and the rich man implies there is some suffering going on. Some might see the thirst of the rich man as a longing for God that you described, but I personally think the guy wanted some Gatorade.
I mean, I think the hell you described is just a little too nice for the Satan I’ve come to know. He doesn’t seem like the type who goes for subtle punishment. No, I think he probably enjoys torturing folks or letting his imps do it.
Then again, the more I think about your point about the torture of being permanently disconnected from God, the more I like the concept. Maybe it’s a combination of both, physical torture and disconnection, that is what makes Hell so bad?
Yay! Disagreement! We’re not differently-hued twins. 😉
We don’t necessarily disagree though, really. I don’t know what Hell is like or what kinds of punishments and sufferings are there and whether they’re immediate or whether Satan gets his last laugh when people realize how empty simple base pleasure is.
I don’t even know if Hell is just one big place that’s the same all over or if we do, to a certain extent, choose our own Hell.
But what I am certain of is that whether the suffering is immediate or whether it sneaks up, it’s going to be awful. Because eternity is a long time. A really, really long time. And picking the losing team for eternity is going to be a soul-crushing experience regardless.
In the end, this is just a musing of what COULD be but very well might NOT be. My point is simply this: It doesn’t matter if the picture I’ve painted LOOKS good. It isn’t. Satan is all about lies and misdirection. I don’t think that laying out a good looking table would be a kindness on his part. I think it would be an okey-doke set-up to pull the carpet out from under folks.
But yes, Big Man, we have finally found a topic in which I wasn’t reading your mind. We can both rest easy.
EDIT: Go read the “It’s a Trap!” post for more on this…[click here]
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