Sunday, May 22, 2011


Fr. Dale Matson

"We must not ask where hell is, but how we are to escape it." St. Chrysostom

The historic view of the major denominations is that Hell is the place of eternal torment. This position is softening and The Church of England Commission on Doctrine (1995) embraced an Annihilationist view. This is the foot in the door for eventual Universalism. The Book Of Common Prayer (1979) seems to have already adopted the Annihilationist view. "By hell, we mean eternal death in our rejection of God." (p.862).

In St. Paul’s 2nd letter to the Church in Corinth (Chapter 12), he stated that fourteen years earlier, he was given a glimpse of heaven. It had such a lasting effect on him he noted in his letter to the Philippian Church (Chapter 1) that he wanted to depart and be with Christ.

I gave my life to Christ when I was eight years old and remember asking God when I was about twelve to take me to heaven then if I would ever fall away. There was also a period of many years where I had fallen away and rejected Christ. I know that if I had died at that time, I would have gone to Hell. I am not an advocate of “once saved always saved”.

I think Christians who fall away do so gradually. Like an anorexic, they are unaware that they are spiritually starving while others can see it. When I came back to Christ and was baptized as an adult, I had a thirst for scripture like a man rescued from the desert has a thirst for water. After receiving a new Thompson Chain Link Reference Bible (KJV) for my Baptism, I had the opportunity to study God’s Word with zeal.

I had been fascinated by the book of Revelation since childhood. When I was a child, It was fearful reading. All of a sudden I had this idea that it would be me that would make sense of Revelation. I would decode the deeper mysteries. As I began to study Revelation it began to dawn on me that all of Revelation had already come to pass. All those who would go to Heaven were already there.

There is a qualitative difference between gradually pulling away from God and a sudden awareness that there is permanent gulf between me and God with no hope of crossing the chasm. I cannot describe how despondent, filled with despair, hopeless and alone I was at that moment. I was in Hell.

During the next few days, I thought about people like Billy Graham and my spiritual mentor Jim Bolling. Surely God would not allow people like that to be in Hell? My dear Christian mother was still living. I clung to John 3:16 for dear life. Eventually the passage, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2, NASB) offered me comfort where there was none previously. And then the final passages from Romans 8 came to mind. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NASB). Like St. Paul’s glimpse of Heaven, God had given me a glimpse of what Hell was like. Hell is real and I don’t want to go there.

“And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.” (From the Creed of St. Athanasius).

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