Romans 1: 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.
24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
If a picture is worth 1,000 words, what we have here is a three-volume leather-bound trilogy on why hell will have its permanent residents.
Before I address this subject, let me say that A.) I do not believe that God is anything less than omnipotent and able to bring about all His good will. B.) I do believe that, strange as it may seem, the poor young lady in this picture may yet be a candidate for God’s salvation.
Why would I say that? Well, it’s because neither you nor I know if she has crossed that line where the heart is no longer able to respond to the overtures of the Holy Spirit, either here or in the next life. ( A controversial statement, since what is called “Traditional Christianity” declares that there is no opportunity for repentance in the next life – something the Universalists deny ). Scripture, however, seems to support this understanding of the importance of not neglecting our spiritual state:
Proverbs 29: 1 He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
Notice the “that without remedy” part. There appears to be a point to which the soul comes in its rebellion against God in which it is incapable of any ability to turn from its path to destruction. If you have been reading any of my other posts, you should realize that I have been trying to defend Patristic Universalism. Upon first appearance on my spiritual radar, I was intrigued by its hopeful message. Certainly God is love and loves all – even the bizarre creature gracing the top of this page. I’m sure that the heart of God is moved towards her as He sees not her strangely tattooed and mutilated body, but rather sees the potential in her, as in all people, to become a child of God, to fulfill the divine purpose for which he created each of us – divinization and the sharing of the divine love. What we cannot see as we strain to find anything likable about her, God sees. And Scripture is clear that it is His will that all be saved and come to the knowledge of Christ.
Yet as I observe the spiritual, moral, and emotional landscape of this world, I find myself hearkening back to the Psalms in which it is stated over and over and over that the wicked will not repent, they find delight in their evils, and care not for the things of God.
And it is not just this young girl. It is this guy also:
Most people don’t know him. This is Ivan Boesky, a Wall Street criminal.
In 1966, Boesky and his wife moved to New York where he worked at several brokerage houses. In 1975, he opened his own firm, the Ivan F. Boesky & Company, with $700,000 (equivalent to $3.1 million in 2016) in seed money from his wife’s family with a business plan of speculating on corporate takeovers. Boesky’s firm grew from profits as well as buy-in investments from new partnerships. By 1986, Boesky had become an arbitrageur who had amassed a fortune of more than US $200 million by betting on corporate takeovers and the $136 million in proceeds from the sale of The Beverly Hills Hotel. Boesky was on the cover of Time magazine December 1, 1986.
In 1987, a group of partners sued Boesky over what they claimed were misleading partnership documents. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigated him for making investments based on tips received from corporate insiders. These stock acquisitions were sometimes brazen, with massive purchases occurring only a few days before a corporation announced a takeover.
Lest it seem that I pick on Mr. Boesky in particular, he is just one of The 15 Most Notorious Wall Street Villains who ever cheated people out of money.
There was a reason why our Lord warned against lust for riches, and told mankind that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. In his own way, if you could see the soul of the greedy rich man, you would see the same tattooed evil. An Armani suit and a silk tie does not make a holy soul.
In Orthodoxy soteriology (the study of salvation), hell is not a place. It is a spiritual state in which the soul A.) sees the reality of all the evil it has done B.) sees the reality of what it could have become but will never be C.) is still consumed by lusts which it will never fulfill. Thus, John D. Rockefeller, who once was asked by a reporter “Sir, you are the richest man in the world. How much more do you need” and replied, “Just a little more, sonny. Just a little more.” is still feeling the tormenting lust for money, the insatiable desire for yet one more dime, even at this hour. When Hugh Hefner dies, unless he repents, he will be tormented for all eternity by his intense, unrestrained desire for fornication. And the young woman above, whose appearance is a walking billboard of her hatred for God and all that He stands for, will be consumed by that hatred forever. Add to that the torment of seeing what they could have become, and you have an unspeakable misery which cannot be relieved.
This is not God’s will for them.
I can imagine our loving heavenly Father continuously expressing His immense and unfathomable love for them in the next life, only to meet with hearts of stone that cannot turn to Him. There is a line which, once crossed, takes us into a place where we can never return from. Don’t argue with me, Universalist. Argue with Scripture, for I have given it to you.
This is not what I want nor do I hope for – for anyone. I have a hope – and that is what it is, a hope, a wish, a desire – and not a dogmatic belief, that God may indeed find someway to break through the toughest tattooed skin and bring the most greedy of souls to repentance. I want even the worst of sinners to be spanked by God, some for a long time, and then have the ability to turn to our Father in repentance and find a home with Him. I cannot imagine anyone really wanting to see another person tormented forever. You would have to be a person of a dreadfully hard and uncompassionate heart to want such a thing.
But the more I observe mankind and see how the wicked are relentless in their pursuit of evil, how every rational and well thought out plea – from scripture, philosophy, and morality – falls on deaf ears, how every mention of God’s love is met with mocking or outright hatred, I find myself thinking that this is a hope that can never be achieved. It is the obdurate stubbornness of the human heart, so hard that even when God in love appeared as man, healing all who came to Him and casting out demons, people turned against Him and cursed Him on the Cross. That is hardness of heart.
God does not lack power or will to save. Romans 5: 18 states that God has saved all who have and will ever live, bringing them to Himself and plundering Satan’s house of it’s illicit loot of souls. This is why in Orthodoxy we say that all souls will be in the presence of God – some to eternal delight and some to eternal misery. God owns all things, and has taken back Creation from the thief and usurper who stole them in Eden.
To understand what I am speaking about, read the presentation of Dr. Alexander Kalomiros, The River of Fire. This is the Orthodox view of the next life, and I believe it is correct.
It is not that God has not done everything to save all mankind (Calvinism is an appalling and egregious lie, a smear on God’s character) No, it is that the wicked do not want it, and in Orthodox soteriology, what you become in this life you carry with you into eternity and forever. The wicked do not want Him now, and except they find repentance before they are hardened beyond that ability, will not want it Him the next life. This is why the practice of the faith, seeking God, ascetic practices such as fasting, and repentance for our wrong-doing are so important here and now. The practice of the Christian faith makes an ontological change in us which makes us ready to joyfully enter into the fires of God’s love. As steel, when put into the furnace, joins and becomes fire, so will those who repent and turn to Christ.
The same is not true for the wicked. The same fire which proves steel, making it into what it is designed to be, only torments wood, destroying it.