One is undesirable to think about and willfully dismissed as ghastly and morbid. The other triumphs in popularity and is widely accepted as a topic that lifts the spirit. You would assume that with such differences one would cancel out the other, but this is not the case. In the book, ‘’Biblical teachings on the Doctrines of Heaven and Hell,’’ the author, Edward Donnelly will show the reader how these two doctrines not only belong together but that the ‘’two affirm the others existence.’’ This book will equip both the believer and the unbeliever with knowledge that literally comes down to life and death. The doctrines of Heaven and Hell must be known but more importantly must be known correctly. Did you know that the Bible speaks more about the wrath of God than His love? With such an extensive testimony we must look first at the study of hell and why such an uncomfortable talking point is so important.
Edward Donnelly starts off by explaining the intrinsic importance of the doctrine of Hell and what our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ had to say about it, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for the murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake the burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
I am not much of a statistician but sometimes I come across a statistic that leaves a profound impact on my thinking. Edward Donnelly shares such a stat with the reader: ‘’ Statisticians tell us that approximately ninety-five million people die every year. That means that, every second, three human beings enter hell or heaven. Within the next hour, eleven thousand men, women and children will have gone forever to a place of everlasting joy or everlasting pain, ‘ ’How can anyone with this inevitable fate before them not desire to know the escape from such a judgment? With the brevity of life before us is not wise reader to know where you will end up when it is your time to be part of that very statistic? “ You may read this as a faithful follower of Jesus and by God’s grace have the assurance that you will not end up in such a dreadful torment. But can you say the same for your loved ones, your friends, the person who serves you coffee, packs your groceries or your neighbor? How can we as the church not burn with desire to speak truthfully about such a reality?
Even as believers we are willfully able to accept some doctrines but struggle to understand others. Why is this? How can something like the discussion of Hell leave us too uncomfortable to speak about? Edward Donnelly points us to the reality that all sin is against God and Hell is the key to understanding the consequences of such enmity. Man will accept some commandments in their own minds as, ‘’worthy,’’ like for example, thou shall not kill, but will discard other commands as having ‘’no impact on their conscience. ‘’ This is what Edward Donnelly has to say about it. ‘’Hell smashes this facade to pieces. Hell tells us that there is an awesome, holy God in whose eyes we are dreadfully guilty. This doctrine informs us that sin is so serious, so damnable in God’s eyes, that it must be punished by an eternity of suffering. It lifts human wrongdoing to an entirely different plane and puts it in the context of accountability and judgment and everlasting consequences.’’
We are being indoctrinated daily and the world will stop at nothing to try and distort the realities which stand before us. Edward Donnelly continues to explain some reasons on why the believer may shy away from speaking to others about hell. Why the unbeliever can publicly mock Hell or how parents could dress their kids up with devil horns for Halloween and think nothing of it. The reason is that the world’s view of sin is man centered. As a society we are seeing the result of humanism. Man centered view of self has given way to the highest priority… man’s happiness.
Believer, this too we must fight against. We can easily be taken captive to dismiss the joy we will one day share in and rejoice in being with Christ for all eternity as selfish because others are in everlasting torment. Of course, this reality should spurn us to testify to the finished work of Christ while we are here on Earth. But in Heaven? How could we possibly think that in glory such thoughts of dread would fill out time? Is this not though an example of man centeredness? An attempt to elevate ourselves and think Heaven is only about us Edward Donelly explains how without a solid biblical understanding we too can be swept away by the world’s influence and spoil the eternal joy we will have with Jesus.
As you continue to read the coming chapters you will be equipped with the necessary armour to face the world’s attacks. The biblical foundation and realities of Hell will continue to be discussed and, Lord willing, will help you prepare for the objections to such a doctrine. These range from hell being disproportionately severe to it being in contrary to God’s loving character and any other feeble attempt to drown out any talk which disrupts man’s happiness. Take the opportunity now to prepare yourself for such a conversation and obey the command where we read, ‘’always be prepared to give an answer.’’ 1 Peter 3:15
Though it is true the Bible speaks more concerning the judgment of God than His love that does not mean that the doctrine of Heaven is of less importance. As mentioned earlier the two doctrines affirm each other’s existence. Christ is the propitiation for our sins, (1 John 2:2) He is the lamb that was slain. (Rev 5:9, 12, We as believers in Jesus will not face judgments for Christ drank that cup for us. So, what is this place that Christ went to prepare a place for those whom he atoned for?
He explains that the world, for the most part, accepts the thought of some sort of after-life. From the early Egyptians to the Greeks, to Rome to Native Americans, all have something to say about the life after this one. Why is this? The bible tells us that we all have been made in the image of God and thus, ‘’He (God) has placed eternity in all our hearts,’’ Eccles 3:11. Edward Donnelly continues by writing, ‘’ Belief in the life to come is a constant element in human culture.’’ We, as human beings, are made to think about such things. It drives our purpose, it gives hope, it allows for a deeper connection with the universe as some would believe. But just like Hell, we can be grossly misinformed as to what the truth about Heaven is. Edward Donnelly makes it clear that we must start the right way and a correct understanding of this is paramount.
Believer, what are we to set our minds on then? How do we avoid having as Edward Donelly writes, ‘’ a grotesquely inaccurate idea of heaven?’’ It must start with the very foundation as to why Heaven exists and who it exists for, Jesus Christ. One of my favourite verses in the bible is, Col 1: 15-20. We read how the very existence of all things was made by Christ and for Christ. Heaven is no different. Here lies the answer to how we as Christians avoid the man centeredness worldview. We begin by realising that we are not the focal point. That ‘’the blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever is His.’’ Rev 5 :13
So where do we come in? We are His joy that was set before him. He made us, redeemed us and will bring us in to His presence for all eternity because it was all made, ‘’ for His Glory. ‘’ Isaiah 43:7 Edward Donnelly beautifully notes that, “Heaven is the arena of Glory,’’ What an image to behold in our minds. To try and envision such words like that of Isaiah which speak of the very robe of God filling the heavens. The sad reality however is that man once lived perfectly in this Glory here on Earth. We were created to enjoy the fullness of this Glory but after Adam and Eve fell to the devils’ temptations sin was born. The result being the glory once enjoyed fully was now diminished. Man’s’ relationship tarnished, and death came to all as a result.
There is one place however sin did not tarnish or destroy. One place that Edward Donnelly writes, ‘’Here, praise God, is where heaven comes in. Despite all the sin and tragedy there is one untouched, uncontaminated, created realm where God’s glory still shines in transcendent beauty – and that is heaven.’’ Understanding that heaven has remained perfect in a fallen world allows for a fuller understanding of how the, ‘’ story of the bible is the story of heaven coming back to this world, taking it over and filling it once again.’’ What an encouragement to our race.
For me, just being reminded of the glory of God stretching across the heavens and showering us here on earth despite the decay of sin we see everyday has set a fire in me. Edward Donnelly does not stop there. As you continue to you read on you will be opened to some of the symbolic imagery used in the scriptures that captures the wonders of heaven and the joy that is before the redeemed, Lord willing, will gain a fuller understanding of how the Christian will become like Christ. I will leave it here with Edward Donnelly’s closing words, “I hope to meet you in everlasting glory.”
~ Eric White