Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved!
Hell is distance from God; heaven is intimacy with him. It is a mistake to talk about hell as if it were a problem in need of a solution — as if each of us has been left alone to earn our own way out of such desolation and hopelessness. The reality, as unsettling as it may be, is that humanity finds itself rejecting the solution to hell which has already been provided — Christ himself.
“The doors of Hell are locked on the inside,” C.S. Lewis says in The Problem of Pain. “I do not mean that the ghosts may not wish to come out of Hell, in the vague fashion wherein an envious man ‘wishes’ to be happy: but they certainly do not will even the first preliminary stages of that self-abandonment through which alone the soul can reach any good. They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved.”
In his work Seeing Hell through the Reason and Imagination of C. S. Lewis Douglas Beyer summarizes, “The saved go to a place prepared for them, while the damned go to a place never made for men at all. To enter heaven is to become more human than you ever succeeded in being in earth; to enter Hell, is to be banished from humanity.”
Yet because of our pride and brokenness we reject not only the place prepared, but the One who prepared it. Beyer sees this theme pervasively in Lewis’ work. He summarizes, “Lewis depicts the damned as rushing insistently into their hells, despite the efforts of God to persuade them not to.”
Christ is God’s magnificent effort — not only to persuade, but to sufficiently meet every need, answer every longing, and fulfill every hope. It is in Christ that we find not merely the solution to our greatest problem, but also everything we need to thrive in life and flourish for eternity.
“The blessed,” Lewis concludes, “forever submitting to obedience, become through all eternity more and more free.”
Lord our hearts are rebellious. You pursue us though we rush away. We see your love for us; you have given yourself while we are yet sinners. Thank you for the freedom of your love. Help us to embrace you as our only hope.
Life and Death Apart from God
Part 3 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org