“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11)”.
I walked by a store in town yesterday I had never noticed before. The name of the place is “Heaven and Hell Tattoos and Piercing.” For the life of me I cannot see anything heavenly about having a needle stuck in your skin or having metal stuck in your body parts. But, I know I sound like an old fogey.
What really interested me about the moniker of this store was the use of the conjunction and. I thought as I passed by that or was more appropriate. You see, people can’t have it both ways. They have to choose. But I think one of the problems in the general population is that at cursory inspection they don’t believe either place exists and when they think heavily about it, people really hope hell doesn’t exist. This is why the owner of this store could give it such a flippant name.
Christians who know their Bible don’t banter too much about the existence of hell, but they do fight about its nature. I don’t really consider myself a theologian (although I have had extensive study in the subject), so I rely on ones I trust. One I respect, J.I. Packer, says mainstream Christianity believes in a place of eternal punishment, while some within Christendom believe hell is a place where people are annihilated. John Stott, who I respect also, believes in annihilationism. I hate to disagree with Stott, but I do. (I shook hands with John Stott when I was a young Christian; this initiated the same sensation newsman Chris Matthews experienced when he thought of Barack Obama: a thrill went up my leg.) I am in agreement with R.C. Sproul, who describes hell as “an eternity before the righteous, ever- burning wrath of God”.
So perhaps the owner of “Heaven and Hell” may have stumbled onto some correct theology. For Christians who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, the name of their store rings of truth. But I wasn’t wrong in preferring the use of or . For people who don’t follow Christ, whether they believe in the concepts of heaven or hell or not, they will have to make a final choice one day.
Although I use commentaries from others, it’s always a good idea to do one’s own study first. Here’s some reading which prompted my thinking: