Heaven and Hell (Part 3)
Sovereign Control and Hell
Like Jesus, we are invited to live sure in love and thereby establish God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven and, in so doing, destroy the works of the devil.
And, as you may have guessed, eight chapters into this book, I would like to suggest that the first work of the devil that must be destroyed is the pernicious lie of sovereign control. I suggest this because sovereign control was the foundational lie of separation the devil introduced and set in motion here on earth. The control perspective was presented by a snake in the garden, and Adam and Eve believed it.
And the moment Adam and Eve bought into the lie of sovereign control is the moment humanity was positioned in the insecure, punishing reality of hell—the knowledge of good and evil. Suddenly they were naked and ashamed. And they hid from God.
Suddenly their perception regarding the goodness of God was distorted, and how great was that darkness!
Sovereign control was the first lie that sought to separate humanity from the intimacy of sovereign love. I would like to suggest that the theology of sovereign control is actually what introduced hell into the human experience.
The Parable Of The Talents Continued…
Sovereign love was the narrative Jesus revealed in everything He did and in every story He told, including the parable of the talents—a parable that revealed God’s perspective on heaven and hell.
The faithful servants were those who perceived the true nature of the master—that he was good. This set them free to trust, which empowered them to receive and invest the master’s good gift. They lived in the present toward a glorious future.
While Jesus didn’t tell us what the faithful servants did to double their talents, He did describe their reward—“Well done, good and faithful servant…come and share your master’s happiness.” The faithful servants simply continued in the trajectory of their faith—heaven.
The unfaithful servant was the one who perceived the nature of the master to be evil—he rejected the master’s good gift. His perception undermined trust, and he lived desperate and afraid.
Jesus did tell us what this servant did. He buried the talent, not even investing it in a bank. He lived wicked and lazy toward a hopeless future. The unfaithful servant simply continued in the trajectory of his unbelief—hell.
You may have noticed in this chapter that I italicized the words faithful and unfaithful. I did this to highlight the role of faith in a servant’s perception.
Faith humbly believes God is always good, even better than our capacity to understand. Faith is an invitation to trust in the always-good sovereign love of God—a love Jesus perfectly revealed. Faithfulness establishes His Kingdom on earth. Faithfulness leads to righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit; it empowers us to live increasingly aware of the power and evidence of our reward, a well done—heaven on earth.
Faithlessness is the denial and rejection of the sovereignty of Love. Those who cannot trust in an always-good love experience lives of desperation and fear; they suffer and are increasingly convinced of the power and evidence of hell.
The power of faith—that’s what Jesus was revealing in the parable of the talents. But it wasn’t faith in what to do; it was faith regarding how we perceive.
Where the eye is single, the body is full of light…
Hell And Salvation
I asked Jesus into my heart when I was five. And in my hazy collection of five-year-old memories, that moment stands out vivid and powerful—the family room of our house on Russell St, the 1970s burnt orange and forest green flowered couch, the maple coffee table I knelt at as my mom led me in the sinner’s prayer.
I felt God’s love and goodness like laughter; I knew His affection, and I sensed His great pleasure. And even at that young and innocent age, I had a sense of being made new.
Like everyone on the planet, I was born into the first Adam; I knew guilt, shame, insecurity, and the lie of separation. When I was reborn into the second Adam, Jesus redeemed and made me whole. And I knew it. Even at five years old, growing up with parents that loved God and others well, having never truly experienced the ravages of sin, when I said yes to Jesus, I still powerfully felt the joy of being forgiven.
Even though, at a young age, I didn’t truly understand sin; I felt its sense of separation. And in Jesus, I knew I was saved and beautifully included.
My point? I didn’t need a lesson in pain and the popular evangelical teachings on hell to desire Jesus in my life; I didn’t need an 8-inch serrated bowie knife to provoke repentance. I didn’t need to meet Satan and all his friends in order to desire to know and revel in God’s good love.
When I asked Jesus to come into my heart, I had absolutely no framework for the concept of a punishing hell that is propagated by the control narrative. The retributive idea of hell was foreign to me, as it should be to all five-year-olds; as it should be to all of us, regardless of our age…“Unless we become like a little child…” 1
The fact is, I was drawn to Jesus that day for one reason; my parents had revealed His love and kindness, and I wanted to know Him as they knew Him.
I was safe, valued, and loved. And in that stunning context, I desired a personal relationship with Jesus.
All salvation experiences are miraculous and beautiful. There isn’t one more stunning than the next. But I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t trade a lifetime of the insecurity of sin for an opportunity to know Jesus from the beginning.
I am eternally grateful that I was given that opportunity. But I shared my salvation story with you for a reason. You see, I know from experience that it is possible to desire God without even the slightest comprehension of eternal punishment.
My point? Hell has been misrepresented by much of the church for so long that, for many, it’s become a core tenet of the Christian faith—as though we are saved both by grace through faith in Christ and by our belief in the power of eternal punishment.
The idea that eternal punishment plays any role in our salvation or faith life is flawed. When it comes to hell, our only responsibility is to destroy the works of the devil and establish heaven—the revelation of family that Jesus lived—here and now.
It is my passion to become so sure in sovereign love that at the end of my life, I am not shocked by how good heaven is. Why? Because I am simply following the trajectory of my faith. I believe it is possible to live always in a greater revelation of His Kingdom come.
My point? I am not waiting to get to heaven to learn about heaven. While heaven is infinitely better than I can ask or imagine, 2 I am getting a head start on asking and imagining it here and now. I am stewarding my faith in sovereign Love, and in so doing, I am destroying the works of the devil.
My focus is heaven, not hell. And I imagine there will be some disappointed by that statement. I imagine some will open this book, go directly to this chapter, and read it solely to know what I believe about eternal suffering.
And they will have completely missed my point.
You see, I’m convinced that, as a son of God, it’s not my job to prove hell; it’s my joy to reveal heaven.
1 Matthew 18:3
2 Ephesians 3:20
This article is an excerpt from my book, God Is (Not) In Control: The Whole Story Is Better Than You Think
Part Three of Three
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children.
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