Imagine . . . The Love of God
Mark Tribble of Starksville, Mississippi, has become convinced that the traditional concept of a burning hell is not taught in the Bible. This unsolicited testimony reflects the emotional feelings which accompanied this discovery.
A Personal Testimony
Imagine finding something so wonderful, so magnificent, that to hold it and understand it brought the greatest joy you had ever known. Imagine your mind being allowed to hope; imagine the darkness and confusion that you did not even know you had start to clear, burning off like the mist or blowing away like pale smoke. Then try to remember the depths of remorse you felt when someone you loved had died; try to recapture that empty, aching pain that for so long you had kept hidden, sealed away—the things you wished you had said, the uncertainty of their relationship to God, the nagging doubt as to where they are now. Now let the light of understanding illuminate the memory of that loved one. Bring their face into focus, with the background of God’s love flowing all around, swirling about them, bringing them back to you, knowing in your heart for the first time the plan—the plan of God of blessing all the families of the earth; not burning them, not somehow showing love to the few while torturing the many. Abandon all your struggles, your vain reasoning, your striving and twisting to somehow harmonize love with Hell. Know now that you can really, safely, let all of this go. Imagine what it would be like to be free, really free, from the doctrine of eternal torment; of knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that God will restore all of mankind who have ever lived—all who ever drew the breath of life, even the unborn babies who never saw the outside of their mother’s womb. And what’s more, all of this, every single promise and hope, is firmly embedded in the Bible, God’s Holy Word. No matter how the bright promises have been twisted, mis-shaped, stretched, and abused until they become a club to hold over the people, you now know what almost nobody else in the world knows —that soon all of the families of the earth will begin to be be reunited in a perfect world, with eternity stretching before them like the unending universe. Feel that mind-numbing overpowering weight of fear start to break—the pieces of it chunk off, the error of the immortal soul crash! The discovery that there is no concept of torment in the Old Testament—another crack appears. How good it feels to peel away this clinging, cloying doctrine—to shed it as an old coat that has grown oppressive, that you never wanted to buy in the first place. Rapidly now, the passages of scripture that have been used to support this blasphemy come into clear focus, their real meaning polished and held up to the light of God’s word—and they shine pure! Then imagine that no one wants this wonderful peace. How can it be? No one wants to listen to you. Those closest to you, those who need this the most, draw away in fear. They have been beaten down for so long, like prisoners who have grown accustomed to being bound, that when the key is shown to them and all they have to do is reach out and take it, they shrink back to the old familiar confines of their creed jail, eyes crazed with wild imaginings, the terrible results of thousands of sermons on hell—the heart-wrenching emotional altar calls where the evangelist brings out his most lurid descriptions of the pit complete with remorse (too late) as they look across the gulf and see the rapture and joy of the Elect, all of them oblivious to your blinding agony. And for all eternity you can beg, you can plead, you can curse, but your raging thirst will drive you mad a million times. And when you come back into a moment of lucidity, the awfulness of your fate will overwhelm you again and your fragile mind will snap once again, to repeat the insane cycle. And this is God’s Justice, says the preacher, dripping sweat and wiping his brow, scanning the pew for those who seem to be hesitating, trembling maybe—(“let’s sing just one more verse of Just As I Am, and if nobody comes we will change the order of the service”). Now imagine holding that loved one, cradling their head in your lap, as you stroke the fevered brow; whispering to them that it is all over, the nightmare is over, that they can wake up now, and there are a lot of folks waiting to see them. The air is cool, the sun is shining, and there is that brother that they thought would surely be in hell, walking over to them with a grin the size of Texas. You can release them now, and watch them meld into the throng because you know that they know now, they understand now for the first time, that God really is love.
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