Simon, who has a level of Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, has been a Christian believer for quite a number of years. But having being brought up in the Catholic faith, and becoming deluded with it by the time he reached his late teens. Then one day while killing time in the library, he was suddenly converted after finding a Bible on one of the shelves. Having placed it on a nearby reading desk, it fell open towards the end of the book, on one of the pages with the sub-heading, St John. This is what he read:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; that the world through him might be saved.
Simon had a more positive feeling about God than he did before he read that passage. He believed that this Jesus, the son of Mary, played a significant role in his salvation, and began to put his trust in him. It was quite a contrast to the Jesus Christ of Catholicism. As he once perceived this long-haired, bearded, Italian-looking fellow to be continuously angry, and constantly critical of the behaviour of those he met and communicated, it was impossible for this lad to see any love within the heart of the man who called himself the Son Of God. If it wasn't for his virgin mother persistently interceding on behalf of sinful mankind, nobody would get into Heaven. To add to this, even the favourites of this Jesus languished in Purgatory, a temporary but a very real Hell where even the smallest of sins committed when alive had to be purged out before being let into Heaven. This purging involved physical suffering to an intensity never experienced by anyone on earth. With threats such as this, little wonder he became disillusioned with his former faith.
Although he was encouraged by the Scripture, his new-found faith raised questions. Mainly this: Why weren't many more believed, if that is all it takes to be saved? And how can he be so sure that he was saved? Has God really acquit him from his sins? Was his faith strong enough, or pointing in the right direction for it to have taken effect? Then a few years later, Simon was browsing on the Internet at home, and came across the most terrifying video that could ever be made. It had its origins from the works of Jack Chick, an American who was famed for his miniature evangelistic cartoon strips and his emphasis on a physical Hell. The video struck terror into Simon's heart, and as he lay in bed that night, he was silently praying while his wife lay asleep beside him.
If this is to be our eternal destiny after death, then why, oh why, did you create us in the first place? Then he turned to see his wife sleeping soundly, and he felt as if another, an even larger spear piercing his heart even further. The very thought of his wife suffering such an eternal fate not only intensify his fear of her welfare, but also a sense of pleading sorrow. How he loved his wife and felt so devoted to her. And even if there were times she might have been cold or disagreeable to him, he could never, never confine her to such eternal suffering! All these emotions, strong as they were, were from the fact that he was never fully freed from Roman Catholicism, and remained locked in the image of an angry God whose wrath was manifest in a critical Jesus Christ as he ministered here on earth some two thousand years previously.
As he walked through the city streets, Simon observed the daily crowd going on their business. He watched young families, especially mothers escorting their infant offspring. At a cafe, he even watched a mother slowly spooning semi-liquid food into her baby son's mouth. All bound for that dreadful place after death? Then as he walked further along the street, he spotted some Hindus and further on, some Muslims. He began to visualise the huge crowd of Muslims, thousands of them, in and around the Kaaba, the head mosque at the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca. And also the multiple thousands of Hindus assembling at the Ganges River in the far east. And were they all heading for that fiery place under their feet, simply because they are following the wrong religion and showing devotion to it? Then at times when he had to visit his doctor, his dentist, or allowed to be served by the checkout attendant at the supermarket. Then all the men and women he watches daily on television. News anchormen, reporters, chat show hosts and their guests, actors, singers, comedians. Then, worst of all, sitting at table with his agnostic parents and atheist brother. Then his mother wonders why he has no appetite.
But it was the sight of the young mother and her son at the cafe which sent shivers down his spine. All throughout the Hindu world, the Muslim world, as well as the Western world, children are constantly being born to parents who know little or nothing about salvation in Christ. This grieved Simon even more. It was a dreadful anomaly from what meant to be perceived as the God of love who sent his Son to atone for their sins. Simon couldn't help thinking: How effective was the atonement Christ made on the cross? If the apostle wrote that in Christ, God has reconciled the world to himself, not imputing their tresspasses against them (2 Corinthians 5:19), and that he that loves not knoweth not God, for God is love (1 John 4:8) seems to blatantly contradicts this fiery Hell as portrayed in the video, yet it is as if nearly the entire human population are heading towards it, as the video shows, a constant rain of lost souls unceasingly falling into the fires below. Simon reasoned that "not knowing God" is a bit like not knowing Fred Bloggs. How can he love Fred if he doesn't know him? Furthermore, would Fred send him to fry forever, because Simon failed to love him? Such thoughts spun in his head.
If Simon loved his wife so much, he couldn't bear see his wife suffer, not even for a moment, let alone eternally. He then reasoned that the Christian faith, like all religions, is based on fear. Fear of punishment. For Simon grew to believe that the reality of this fiery Hell has prevented him from loving God as his Heavenly Father, because he finds it difficult to love a deity who is capable of condemning billions to relentless torture. Instead, in fear he makes an effort to stay clean. But there is a problem. Although he is happily married and very devoted to his wife, in the church where he attends, there is another female whose presence arouses his sexual desire. He see her there nearly every week, and he goes home and to bed fantasising her with himself, arms entwined. He even uses the fantasy to help him sleep. But he also knows that this is wrong. And it is this aroused desire which makes him doubt his salvation and dreading what could happen if he died right there and then.
Then, as Simon lays on his bed, he ponders: What right has he to be an inheritor of eternal glory when there are so many around him who are not so fortunate? Pretty frightening too, is the thought of being born as a Muslim or Hindu, or from a remote jungle tribe cut off from civilization as we know it, or for that matter, from atheist but well educated parents. So much distress, how can such a mountain of burden be borne solely on one human heart? After all, does this Jesus Christ have any love in his heart, knowing that such a huge percentage of the human population is perishing? Or does he cry out Woe! Woe! Woe! - as he did one day at the Pharisees? But furthermore, how can he prove that this Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Anointed One, the Jewish Messiah, is the Way to eternal life? And not Mohammed or any of the Hindu or Buddhist deities and their scriptures?
I approach Simon and asked him if watching the video has edified him. He tells me that just the opposite of edify is to terrify, and that has what the video has done for him. He also explained that any love he had for God has been replaced by a deep fear of him, together with an apparently justifiable case that if God has reconciled the world to himself, not imputing their tresspasses against them, how is it that God has prepared such a terrible place for lost souls? I try to explain that the Lake of Fire was never intended for mankind, but was prepared for the Devil and his angels, according to Matthew 25:41. It was never God's intention for any man or woman to go there. Then by testifying that the way to life is through Jesus, I opened the Bible to Isaiah 53, and read out to him these words:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us turned to his own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
I then asked him, "Who have met such credentials?"
Simon replied, "None other than Jesus."
I then advised him never again watch such videos on the Internet, or watch or read anything that does not edify, because unless the material builds up your faith and brings out your love for the Lord, then more than likely, such material is not from God - even if it looks fully orthodox and Biblical. For Jesus died to atone for our sins, to bring us peace, and that we can enjoy life, not tremble in terror. After all, no living person has ever been to Hell, nobody knows what it really looks like.
"But what about those who do not know the Gospel?" Simon asked.
Well, according to Paul's letter to the church in Rome, he wrote that his voice has gone out to all the earth, his words to the end of the world (Romans 10:18). And that was quoted from Psalm 19:4 which reads:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice go out to all the earth, their words to the end of the world.
|The love of Christ is beyond comprehension...|
And the Gospel of John opens with the assurance that the true light which shines into every man was coming into the world (John 1:9). Simon then concluded,
"If a man in Hell asks, 'Why am I here?' then I could answer by asking, 'Why did you reject such a loving God?'"
Then Simon turned and walked away.