Tag Archives: Holiness

WTH 4 – The End

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.

Amen.

-Jude 24-25

Practical questions:

  1. Have you ever thought of God’s holiness including His love or mercy?  Why or why not?
  2. 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?

A challenge:

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.

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WTH 2 – God, Holiness, and Sin

Last time we saw that Jesus describes hell using a perpetually burning city dump (gehenna) as a metaphor.  It is a place where unclean things are disposed of.  Christ speaks of it as a very real consequence that we face rather than as a figure of speech.

Sin is the unclean thing that is disposed of in hell.  In order to better understand the relationship between God and hell, we must first spend some time considering the relationship between God and sin.  God is holy.  As a matter of fact, He’s so holy that the four living creatures around His throne have to constantly say the word “holy” 3 times in a row to even begin to express how holy He is.  (Revelation 4:8)  Skimming the rest of Revelation 4 gives us a further glimpse at just how Holy God is.

The Greek word translated as “holy” that the four living creatures say designates something being most sacred or pure.  The Hebrew word that is often translated as “holy” carries similar meaning.  The overall sense that we get from the words translated as “holy” is something that is set apart as being pure and without blemish.  To say that God is holy is to say that He is set apart from all things because of His pureness.

God is so holy that the place where He dwells is also holy.  When God speaks to Moses out of the burning bush, He tells Moses to, “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”  (Exodus 3:5)  Much of the law regarding the priests in Israel dealt with them being sanctified to minster before the Lord.  In the New Testament, Paul reminds us that we are the temple of God because His Spirit dwells within us and that temple is holy (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).  (This is why it is important that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the perfect and all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins.)  Heaven is also a holy place since it is where God dwells.

This idea of God’s dwelling being a sinless place comes into focus best when we consider John’s description in Revelation of the New Jerusalem where, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.  God Himself will be with them and be their God.”  (Revelation 21:3)  It says of the city that, “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (Revelation 21:27)  “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)  Nothing that is sinful will enter into the city where God dwells with His people because God’s dwelling is holy by virtue of God’s holiness.  So what happens to sin if it is unable to be where God is?  It is disposed of in hell, the perpetually burning dump.

That is all well and good, but where do people (and angels for that matter) fit into the equation?  That is something that we will address next week.  For now, here are the main points:

  1. God is holy; meaning that He is set apart or separate from all other things on account of His purity.
  2. Because God is holy, the place where He dwells is holy and nothing that defiles can enter into it.

Practical Questions:

  1. How do you feel when you think about God’s holiness?  Fear?  Awe?  Indifferent?
  2. Have you ever thought about hell in the context of God’s holiness?  Why or why not?
  3. What does it say about God’s character that He, who is “holy, holy, holy” makes His Spirit to dwell in us?