Thursday, July 12, 2012

Burn, Baby, Burn

Revelation 21.22-22.7

“Heaven has gates? Just what kind of neighborhood is it in, anyway?”
- Comedian Jim Gaffigan

What if God is like the sun and sin is flammable?

That’s how I typically think of judgment and punishment and hell. Some think that God must be really angry, and so he lashes out against the sinful. That may be partly right. But our perception of anger is so distorted by the sin-stained ruination of human anger that I think something gets lost in translation. Others think that God is really intolerant, so he turns his head to the side and refuses to even acknowledge sinners. Again, that might be partly right, but it tends to cheapen the seriousness of sin and caricaturizes God as dainty, or petty, or elitist. Besides, the nations are welcomed into God’s presence and the gates of heaven are never closed (21.25). There are gates, and God could close them, but he doesn’t. Which tells me that everyone is invited, but not everyone can enter.

“Nothing that has not been made holy will ever come into it, nor will anyone who practices {wicked nonsense}…”

Sin keeps us from God. Why? Back to my earlier summation, I think God burns sin up. His holiness is hot. His perfection is plumb. His beauty is illuminating. The dross of sin gets purified. The crookedness of sin gets constrained. The blemish of sin gets exposed. Simply, sin itself is unable to remain in the presence of God, like kindling is unable to remain near the fire. In God’s new creation, where everything exists according to its original perfect intention, there is no room for corruption of any sort. Sin assaulted the first creation, slowly at first through one act of disobedience, but heaven is too hot for sin to be present.

Ironically, the flames of hell are cooler.

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