Over the last couple of weeks, we have considered what hell really is, how it fits with God’s holiness, and how we fit into the mix. Now we return to our original question of how God, who is love, could also be the same, unchanging God who created hell.
God’s love for us is perfect, therefore, by definition, it is not half-hearted and He also desires for us to know and love Him to the fullest extent possible. As long as there is sin in and around us, we will never be able to know and love God to our fullest potential. Sin (unlike the sinner) is irredeemable and breeds only death. This is where hell comes into play: it is the result of God’s righteous anger and disgust towards sin with respect to His holiness. But God’s holiness gives rise to love and mercy in addition to righteous indignation. It is in holy love that Christ came to earth and offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world that we may be credited with His righteousness and spared the wrath of God laid up against us. It is also holy love that motivates God to give us the Holy Spirit who dwells within us and walks alongside us; quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) revealing the things of God to us and interceding for us with “groanings which cannot be uttered.”
If we were to hazard a short answer the question we began with, it would be that God is holy. In all things He is holy. He is holy in love and in wrath, in mercy and in judgment. Hell is the outworking of His holy wrath and judgment while the cross is the outworking of His holy love and mercy. Everything about God is holy, which is why it is such a remarkable thing that He chooses to create and associate with us.
Many times, God’s holiness is something that we view as cold and alienating. It is true that His being holy puts some distance between us and Him. However, we must not forget that it is this same holiness that He is drawing us closer to as we grow and develop and Christians. His holiness is not something that we ought to view negatively, as if it were some lifeless barrier. Perhaps a better way to view it would be as the perfection of being that burns so hot and so bright that we cannot draw too close to it right now, for it burns up all that is unclean with unquenchable fire. However, we nonetheless move towards it along the trail blazed for us by Christ, the firstborn from the dead, guided carefully and lovingly by the Holy Spirit. This is, at least in part, why Christian growth is not a fast-moving affair. It is like coming out of a dark room into the sunlight. It takes time for our eyes to adjust to the brightness. Likewise, our hearts and souls, after being warped by sin, must have time to be shaped and sanctified according to the righteousness we are credited with in Christ.
Why can God create a place as terrifying as hell and also perform the greatest act of love the world has and will ever know? It is because He is “holy, holy, holy”.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
- Have you ever thought of God’s holiness including His love or mercy? Why or why not?
- How can putting God’s holiness at center-stage change our perceptions of the Old and New Testaments and how they fit together as a unified whole?
Set a timer for 15 minutes and spend that block of time reading, re-reading, thinking, and meditating on the passage from Jude above. Let this reading and thinking lead you into prayer about whatever you are led to say to God.