"And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh." ~ Isaiah 66:24
"After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, 'Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants'. Once more they cried out, 'Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever'". ~ Revelation 19:3
I’ve been re-reading a favorite of mine lately, “The Count of Monte Cristo”. It is a masterfully told story of betrayal and revenge. Dumas really draws you in to care deeply about the characters. In brief, the main character is betrayed on his betrothal day by two close friends. The judge, knowing his innocence, instead declares him guilty because it serves his own ends. In prison for 14 years, Edmond plots revenge. After escaping and finding untold riches, he goes back to slowly and carefully exact vengeance from the three men who have enjoyed prosperous lives while he suffered unjustly. One of them even married his fiancée. As the plan unfolds, you really root for Edmond to mete out justice; there is no pity for these despicable men who have been blessed for so long and are now only getting their just deserts. And it is a wonderful triumph.
Simultaneously and seemingly unrelated, I have been considering hell for a while now. It stemmed from a few chance readings and the verse in Romans 11:22 that says “Consider then the goodness and severity of God”. We are commanded to consider both. So I’ve been thinking about hell and it has been tough. It seems to be an area most people either gloss over or make it something other than what it is – conscious, eternal, fiery torment. I told God yesterday that I just didn’t see how this was right or good. I felt unable to rejoice in something God had made. I decided to trust and imagined I would simply need resurrected perspective to really get it.
Then it clicked! The book, of course! Edmond is the Christ figure, handing down a delayed but fully deserved sentence of judgment. In the book I had no desire for mercy to be shown. The convicted were not sorry, and they had enjoyed many blessings in the meantime. I rejoiced to see Edmond’s innocence vindicated and his enemies denounced. In the same way, when sinners are judged as sinners they will remain hating God and without remorse for their sins. It will be a righteous and good thing for them to be condemned. It will be part of the fullness of Jesus' vindication that he finally and fully triumphs over his enemies, as it is cried so often in the Psalms. Incredible as it sounds, this work of fiction helped me grasp this concept much better than if someone had merely told me the same thing. In the book, I was totally drawn in and felt all the emotions in full.
I think a lot of the problem comes from not viewing the damned in their proper light. They are “alienated and hostile in mind”, “haters of God”, “liars, depraved, inventors of evil”. Somehow we get the idea that when it’s all over people will realize who God is and cry out for mercy but their chance will be over so God is forced to torture them forever. No way! They will see God for who He truly is, but this will make their hearts (no longer restrained by any measure of grace or love) revile Him all the more. They will never ask for mercy unless it be in a self-seeking way, only wanting to save themselves from pain. It reminds me of those crime documentaries on TV. They follow the whole case and when the creepy, twisted criminal is in the courtroom he remains cold. It’s sickening to see them show no sorrow for their murders and rapes and other unspeakable crimes. Then, if they do show emotion, it’s only because they want to lower their sentence. They aren’t sorry at all. For those people I want justice, swift, sure, and without chance of mercy. This is the lens through which to view the reprobate and it allows us to rejoice in God’s righteous punishment.