Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 7 – Systematic Theology: Three Vantage Points of Hell

 

 

Well, believe it or not, I am done with chapter 7 and will provide the review here. After several readings and as much pondering of what was written as necessary. I am ready to write my review.

 

 

Ready?

 

 

There is nothing in this chapter worth noting concerning hell since everything that is said in this chapter regarding the fate of the wicked has already been said. One theme is brought out, the “already / not yet theme which adds absolutely nothing to any argument regarding hell that has not already been discussed.

 

 

How is that for a review! Honestly, there is nothing more that needs to be said. However, I will make a few points regarding a couple of things that Peterson mentioned and ask a question or two. Here goes.

 

 

Peterson says on page 161, “Scripture declares that God Himself is both Lord (Rom 14:9) and Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 2 Tim 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5).” Later he deals with the concept that sinners are judged already in this life and have their judgment here, yet will be judged later. My question is this: If the traditional teaching of final judgment is being taught in these previous verses, and by final I mean an eternal or forever and ever judgment, then why does God need to judge them again after they are dead? If they are judged already, the sinners who are not Christ’s, and will not be Christ’s at His coming, and are not the elect, and God knows will never believe in Him in this life, and there is no chance after this life for belief in Christ, why does God need to be the Judge of the living AND the DEAD? Could those passages entail something different than what we have traditionally believed?

 

 

But alas, in the Peter passage we do have a glimpse into what this might mean. 1 Peter 4:5 does talk about Jesus judging the living and the dead, but then we read verse 6,

 

 

(1Pe 4:6)for into this [purpose], also, the good news was brought and announced to dead ones, to the end that on the one hand they may be judged (separated and decided about) corresponding to men, in flesh (or: according to humans in flesh), yet on the other hand, that they may continue living (or: may be habitually living) corresponding to (down from; according to) God, in spirit.

 

 

 

To me Peter seems to be saying that what is done in this life is not the final answer, the final destiny of the saved or the wicked. And, when factoring in what we saw in the last chapter review concerning Revelation 21-22 and how the nations and the kings of the earth must have repented and then been healed and had their names written in the book of Life and entered into the New Jerusalem, I would say that we need to re-think some of our previous thoughts on this eternal separation of the saved and the unsaved.

 

 

Here is another question for you. This one I will not comment on because I haven’t studied it thoroughly yet. The question is, why does God in Ezekiel 7 say that He will judge with the people’s standard rather than God’s righteous standard? Any thoughts? I would really like to know your understanding of these things. I bring this up because Peterson comments that in both Old and New Testaments it is proclaimed that God will judge sinners according to their deeds. Ezekiel 7:27 is one of the passages he lists as showing this judgment.

 

 

Lastly, one other thing came up that I want to bounce off of you. Peterson says, “If we press as far as Scripture allows concerning the reasons people perish, we come to the further fact that God has sovereignly chosen multitudes for salvation before the creation of the world and has passed over others, allowing them to reap condemnation for their sins…He [God] is proactive in election; he grants grace to those who would perish without it. But he is passive in reprobation, allowing sinners to receive what their sins deserve.”

 

 

To me, and to many others, this shows a partiality in God that the Bible says is not in Him. Also, this says that God loves some and not others (the traditional, yet errant view of Paul’s teaching on Jacob and Esau, one He loved and the other He hated). I say partial because on the one hand God is actively doing something to help and the other group He is passive with, not acting on their behalf. Is this the same God that causes it to rain on the just and the unjust alike? Is this the same God that says that unbelievers give good gifts to their children, and treat them well, how much more will God do for His children. I understand this to mean that God is so much more loving and fair with us (all of His image-bearers) than we could ever be as humans.

 

 

On the next page, page 166, from the previous quote, Peterson then says, “God lvoed a world that hated him and sent his Son into it on a rescue mission. Although the purpose of the Son’s coming is to save and not to condemn, condemnation is a by-product of the Son’s saving mission. For every believer in Christ the verdict of the last day is announced ahead of time – he or she is “not condemned.” And for everyone who rejects the Son the final verdict is also announced – he or she is “condemned already.”

 

 

So here is my quandary, my puzzlement. Is God loving or isn’t He? Did God truly create everything and say it was good, putting His stamp of approval on all things, not creating anything imperfect, or did He create things that were not (ultimately) good or at the least, plan to restore fallen mankind in the end? On the one hand God seems to be indifferent at best, and unloving at worst concerning sinners, yet He loved the world (mankind) SO MUCH that He sent is unique, on and only Son into it to save it? On one hand the ultimate in apathy, on the other hand the ultimate in love. Can there actually be this much shadow of turning in God? Is God schizophrenic?

 

 

This quandary is solved in Evangelical Universalism, the belief that the early church held, the earliest disciples clung to for many centuries. The earliest believers did not believe a person’s ultimate (eternal) fate was sealed at physical death. They did not believe this short lifetime was all the chance anyone had to hear the Gospel and repent. They believed that, just as Paul taught and John taught (in Revelation that we looked at last chapter review) that all men will ultimately be reconciled to God and be restored to His fellowship and come to worship and enjoy Him forever.

 

 

What do you believe? Do you hold to a God who appears to love certain ones and is totally apathetic with the others? OR do you believe in a God who sent His Son to be the Savior of all Mankind and actually succeeded (or will eventually completely and totally succeed at saving the whole world!) at it?

 

 

Truly bless you with the scriptural teaching that God loves you and one day, whether now or later, you will experience His love as you have never experienced it before and you will be changed by it, to the praise of His glorious grace!

 

 

In Christ’s extreme and radical love!

 

 

Craig

 

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1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, God's Love, Hell, Mercy, Universal salvation

One response to “Hell Under Fire Book Review – Chapter 7 – Systematic Theology: Three Vantage Points of Hell

  1. Dirk

    “For not as My devices are your devices, and not as your ways are My ways, averring is Yahweh. For as the heavens are loftier than the earth, so are My ways loftier than your ways, and my devices than your devices.”

    (CLV Isaiah 55:8-9)

    “The question is, why does God in Ezekiel 7 say that He will judge with the people’s standard rather than God’s righteous standard?”

    I guess so that Israel (and therefore all humans in general – see Romans 15:4) had the chance to learn (once again), and feel the painful contrast (reality) between fallen humanity’s (Israel’s and the nations attitude) and Gods standards of righteous judgment. That’s also the reason why the light (Jesus Christ) appeared as the true light in this (His own creation) world (darkness), and the world (darkness) grasped it not (see John 1:5). We all need Gods loving and sovereign saving grace to embrace … otherwise we all would be separated from Gods present for all times indeed. In short, in Ezekiel 7 and other similar passages in the course of redemptive history God is holding a mirror before Israel’s face, so His old Covenant Nation can experience the result of their own sinful doing … Sort of like the principle we find in Galatians 6:7-9.

    “O, the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How inscrutable are His judgments, and untraceable His ways!” For, who knew the mind of the Lord? or, who became His adviser? or, who gives to Him first, and it will be repaid Him? seeing that out of Him and through Him and for Him is all: to Him be the glory for the eons! Amen!”

    (CLV Romans 11:33-36)

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