Saturday, February 11, 2006

Mao Zedong in Hell.

There's a book by Randy Alcorn called Safely Home. It is about Christianity in China, and is an extremely powerful book. In one section, Alcorn portrays what he thinks Hell is like for Mao Zedong. Yes, that means Alcorn believes there is such a thing as Hell. I believe it, too, and it is no joking matter. If there is a hell, then it is for our eternal good that we contemplate it. Mayhaps God will save us from such a horrible fate.

The way Alcorn portrays Hell here does at least two things for me. The first is that I am inspired more and more to trust God to save me. The second is that I realize just how much I wouldn't wish this fate on anyone.

Some would disparage this hell-mongering. They would claim I am trying to scare people into Christianity. They would claim I am trying to make people feel miserable, unworthy, evil, hopeless. To that I would claim, "Guilty as charged!" Without Christ, we all of us are all those things. But in Christ, the picture is not the opposite. The good is so much more good than the evil is evil. I think the Bible uses the pictures both of Heaven and Hell, because it recognizes that human beings respond better to both positive and negative encouragement.

Incidentally, before I quote this section, which is quite long, I should issue a disclaimer. I'm not sure of the legality of quoting such a long section. If someone shows me I should not have done it, I will delete it from this post and simply provide a reference. Here is the quote.


Where is my palace? Where are my servants? Does no one know who I am?

The vast, cold darkness cut into his face. It felt like intense frostbite, burning his skin.

I was the most powerful man in Zhongguo. I created the People's Republic. I was the revered father of my country. They worshipped me. I was god! He waited, listening to the silence. Cannot anyone hear me?

His voice disappeared into the great dark void. It did not echo, for there was nothing for it to echo off. It was immediately absorbed into infinite nothingness. His words went no farther than his blistered lips.

A parade of untold millions marched inside his mind's eye. His sentence was to relive the suffering of each of his victims. He had been here over twenty-five years. Every minute of those years he had relived the sufferings he inflicted on others. Every torture his regime inflicted he now received, one after the next after the next. Eventually, perhaps, they would start over, so the millions he had already endured were but the first installment. The pain was unbearable, yet he had no choice but to bear it. There was no escape into unconsciousness - no drug to take, no sleeping pill, no alcohol. That which he had laid upon others was now laid upon him - endlessly, relentlessly.

He longed to pluck out his eyes, to keep from seeing what he saw, to puncture his eardrums to keep from hearing the wailing misery, to pull out his tongue to keep from tasting the awfulness he had legislated. But he had no ability to destroy himself. He had no control now over his destiny, no power over himself or others. There was no one he could command to fix the situation, no one to prepare him an eight-course meal to assuage the eternal hunger, no one to do his work, no one to punish for their errors. No one to salute him, cower at his voice, or bow heads in his presence.

Where is everyone?

Misery loves company, and he had long sought the consolation of others. But all others were still on earth, secure in heaven, or confined to their own private hells at distances immeasurable.

The aloneness was stifling. He could hear nothing but his victims' cries, feel nothing but their pain, see nothing but their blood, taste nothing but their vomit, sense nothing but their torture. He had only himself. He could not enjoy his own company, for he saw himself as he really was. It was an ugly sight, revolting beyond comprehension.

He felt a burning. A fury welled up inside him. Anger and bitterness, unfocused hostility, frustration leading him to lash out. But there was no one to lash out at. No incompetant aide, no dissident, no Christian pastor, no helpless peasant. No one to beat or shoot or hang or starve. No one to cower in fear at the power of the great chairman, architect of the Republic. No one to shine his shoes or rub lotion upon his burning feet.

Grief and rage warred within him. His hell was a growing cancer, gnawing at him, eating away at him, devouring him. He was like a bush that burned yet was not consumed, so the burning could never stop.

He had come to death entirely unprepared - and now it was too late to prepare. If the torture was not enough, a sickening feeling of foreboding had gripped him from his first moments here. He had hoped it would subside, that he would get used to it. He hadn't. It only got worse.

He could see now through all his rationalizations. His arguments against belief in a Creator had never been intellectual ones, as he had claimed. By rejecting a Creator he thought he could rid himself of a Judge. But it had not worked. His atheism had been the opiate of his soul and the executioner of uncalculated millions. But now his comforting atheism could no longer exist, even for a fleeting moment, for he had been forever stripped of the power to deny reality.

He had lived his short todays as if there were no long tomorrows. He had believed the lie that all were accountable to him and he was accountable to none. He had believed the lie that death would slip him into eternal unconsciousness. He knew now - how well he knew - the curse of always being awake, ever alert, unable to allay his suffering with a moment's sleep or distraction.

The winds of hell blew upon him. On them floated sounds of laughter and joy from a place far distant. These voices were torture. Many he recognized as belonging to Christians he had persecuted, worshippers of the Carpenter he had murdered. He relived what he had done to them, this time on the other end of the cattle prod. By the time he had died, while he and all he stood for were in decline, they and all they embraced were in ascent. They had beaten him. Their King had dethroned him even in the other life - how much more in this one.

As they celebrated in their far-off realm, at first he had imagined they were cursing him, celebrating his demise. He thought of them as his eternal enemies who would forever speak of what a great foe he had been to them. But he had come to realize something far worse. They did not curse him. They did not relive his great campaigns against him. No. They simply did not think of him at all. He was unimportant. Insignificant. In the eternal scheme of things, he did not matter.

Not matter? How dare they ignore me! Don't they know who I am?

He had said, "I want there to be no God; I want nothing to do with him." His atheist's prayer had been answered. The everywhere-present God had chosen to withdraw his presence from this single place, turning it into a cosmic desert. This was a ghetto of massive proportions, yet so small it could slip through a single crack in the tiles of heaven. It was located in some distant and empty place, never to be feared or even stumbled upon by the citizens of Charis. His life, with all his supposed accomplishments, was but a puff of smoke, dissipating into nothingness.

Stop what you're doing and listen to me! Stop or I will... I will...

No power to give meaning to a threat. No reason to be listened to. And no one to hear him.

Thirst without water to quench it. Hunger without food to satisfy it. Loneliness without company to alleviate it. There was no God here. He'd gotten his wish. On earth he'd managed to reject God while still enjoying his blessings and provisions. But it was excruciatingly clear now that God was the author of good. Therefore the absence of God meant the absence of good. He could not have it both ways, not here. No God, no good. Forever.

He had wanted a world where no one else was in charge, where no order was forced upon him. He had finally gotten it. He had secretly wondered if there was something beyond death, but if he went to hell, he'd fully expected to rule there. Yet there was no king, for there were no subjects. Only one prisoner - himself - in eternal solitary confinement.

He missed the sound of laughter. There was no laughter here, nor could there be, for laughter cannot exist without joy or hope. An awful realization gripped him. There was no history here. No story line. No opening scene, no developing plot, no climax, no resolution. No character development. No travel, no movement. Only a setting of constant nothingness, going nowhere. Excruciating, eternal boredom. Nothing to distract him from the torment of the eternal now.

He had charmed his friends and cheated his enemies, but death he could not cheat, hell he could not charm. This nameless, ever-shriveling man writhed in terror. Faced with his own deeds, punished by them, he was receiving in himself the penalty for what he had done. He longed for a visit from a foreign dignitary, delivered by a courier, a request for an audience in his illustrious presence. But no. He knew now none would ever come, or even want to. He could not return to Beijing - and knew Beijing itself would soon be gone, a flower withered in a summer's wind. Perhaps it was gone already.

No one to fear him. No one to revere him. No one to hear him. No one to think about him.

He who had claimed to be savior was forever without a Savior. Ignored and insignificant. Empty and embittered and regretful. Without a following. Without a heart. Without a hope.

Forever, time without end.


If this unsettled you, good! That is precisely what Alcorn wanted. But there is more than one kind of fear. There is terror such as Zedong has in this passage. But there is also the fear of the Lord, which drives out all other fears. And this fear is not a terror; it is a respect and awe of the One who really does have the power to cast you into the pit of Hell.

There is a way out! You need not fear this Hell. You must believe in the God of the Bible, and repent of your sins, and trust on Jesus Christ to save you from your sins.

But a further word of warning: I would be remiss if I did not tell you what it is you do if you repent and trust in God. You are leaving one kind of slavery and warfare for a different kind of slavery and warfare. Christianity is warfare, and if you are a Christian, you are a soldier. Christianity is not peace with the world, the flesh and the devil. You should not expect a life of ease. You must fight this good fight.

And what is the goal of this fight? Heaven, or Charis as Alcorn calls it. Heaven is rest, perfect peace. Communion with God. Rewards beyond anything you can imagine. Think of the most blissful thing that has ever happened to you, and try to imagine that experience multiplied infinitely over, and deepened and broadened. And then I tell you truly, that has not even scratched the surface of what Heaven will be.

In Christ.

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At 2/11/2006 08:07:00 PM , Blogger une_fille_d'Ève said...

Agreed that Randy Alcorn's book is very powerful. I am so intrigued by the church in China... well, the underground church around the world for that matter. Their stories I read continually amaze, inspire, and humble me.
I remember reading that passage in the book about Hell. *shiver* Chilling right down to the bone. Not something I enjoy contemplating for very long, but also important as a Christian to keep in mind. Hell is real and hideous beyond imagination.
Good post.

And as you are the one who is usually giving out book suggestions, I have one this time :-). Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand is really amazing and eye-opening as an example of what Christians are going through all over the world. It's shocking, horrible, hideous, but also really a beautiful love story; Richard Wurmbrand unreservedly follows the One he loves, Who gave His life for him. It puts 'to love and follow Christ' in a completely different perspective. He was in prison and tortured for 14 years because of his faith. When he was ransomed out of Romania to the US, he started an organization that is today called The Voice of the Martyrs.

At 2/11/2006 08:26:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

You really hit one of Hannah's special interests here :).

Unfortunately the church in China and the persecuted church in general are so ignored by most of American Christians because it's an uncomfortable subject. Of course it's not pretty to talk about, but it's a glorious part of God's work in this world. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.

There were more Christians martyred in the 20th century than in all the other centuries combined. Most people have no idea that persecution is so prevalent today. Voice of the Martyrs has a t-shirt that says "Persecution didn't end in a Roman Colliseum."

I haven't read "Safely Home." Thanks for sharing Alcorn's depiction of hell - very chilling. Sad that hell is laughed at in our culture as a big party, or laughed off as nonexistent. Hell is going to be a lonely place, but very real.

There was no God here. He'd gotten his wish. On earth he'd managed to reject God while still enjoying his blessings and provisions. But it was excruciatingly clear now that God was the author of good. Therefore the absence of God meant the absence of good. He could not have it both ways, not here. No God, no good. Forever.

This was the most chilling part of the passage, in my opinion. Irony in its harshest form. It struck me because I have recently been contemplating hell in that sense; hell is an absence of God. What could be more horrible?

Every time I really take time to sit and contemplate the reality of hell I am struck by an overwhelming horror and sadness for those who will spend eternity there. It makes me marvel all the more that God chose me as one of His own, when I too deserve such a fate.

"Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there's room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?"

At 2/12/2006 07:39:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to various Garrisons.

Interesting. I had intended the quote to be more about Hell than about the persecuted church in China, though it is true that Safely Home is more about the persecuted church. Now, since you bring it up...

I once read quite an interesting little story. One day, a young Christian decided he wanted to visit the church in China. So he worked out all the paperwork. Right before he went, he talked with his pastor. His pastor said something like, "When you come back, perhaps you can tell us why God is allowing all the persecution over there." So the young man went out and came back. He went to his pastor and said, "The church in China is so strong, I am more beginning to wonder why God isn't allowing the church in America to be persecuted."

I think that while we shouldn't wish persecution on others, I think it wise to learn this lesson well: throughout history, the church has blossomed under persecution. When the church is not being persecuted, it tends to stagnate and apostatize. I tell you truly: much more uncomfortable to me than the subject of the persecuted church in China is the story of the wimpy church in America and Europe. She does not preach the gospel like she should. She cares far too much for the world's opinions and ways. She is like a hamstrung horse: next to useless. I suppose you can say this: the church in China, because of physical persecution, flourishes in its spirituality. For them, it is literally a matter of life and death; you don't even go to church unless you mean it. The church in America is being persecuted spiritually, but not physically. Because spiritual persecution is harder to deal with, it seems the church has opted not to deal with it. Because the church in China is so strong, I am not so worried about it. Yes, it is wrong that they are persecuted. But I predict the church will get strong enough to overthrow the evil communist "government." In the meantime, I understand that their absolute over-riding need is to have Bibles. Their spiritual condition is one to be envied. When they manage this revolution, I might very well decide to move there!

But this church in America is still the church of Christ we speak of, is it not? Jesus will save her to the uttermost, despite her failings.

In Christ.

At 2/12/2006 08:11:00 AM , Blogger une_fille_d'Ève said...

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At 2/12/2006 08:15:00 AM , Blogger une_fille_d'Ève said...

Interesting. I had intended the quote to be more about Hell than about the persecuted church in China.

Haha, sorry, I didn't mean to lead people down a rabbit trail. :-/ I realize that the point of your post was quite different.
I have never heard that story about the man going to China, although I've heard similar things. I have even heard some people say that they were praying for persecution (physical) to come to America. I'm not exactly sure what I think about that. It seems really weird, yet I think it would also be what our church needs. And what is the most important function of the Church? To glorify Christ. And it seems like that is exactly what would happen if persecution came to America. If I had to list countries that I felt, at least from my perspective, glorified Christ the most and were the brightest light, I would list many persecuted countries like China before I would list America.
However, I don't think I could bring myself to go so far to wish persecution on America. It just doesn't seem completely right. Although, I'm not exactly sure why or even how I could solidly back that up Biblically... hm...

...much more uncomfortable to me than the subject of the persecuted church in China is the story of the wimpy church in America and Europe.


One thing about America as a free nation is that it is a source to provide for persecuted Christians around the world. If our church became persecuted and had to go underground, other underground churches would probably suffer as they couldn't receive the material help we send, especially Bibles, which, yes, are greatly needed.

When they manage this revolution, I might very well decide to move there!

Haha, I've said many times when I'm sick of living in American consumerism and luke-warmism that I want to move to China! However, there is one itsy-bitsy problem... I don't speak Chinese...

But this church in America is still the church of Christ we speak of, is it not? Jesus will save her to the uttermost, despite her failings.

Yes, very true. Good reminder.

At 2/12/2006 08:34:00 AM , Blogger Susan said...

Well, Hannah already nicely agreed with you, Adrian, so I'll just nicely agree with her agreement of what you said :).

There is one anecdote (that I'm surprised Hannah did not share) that strikes me the hardest concerning the persecuted church. A group of persecuted Christians was being visited and ministered to by Voice of the Martyrs, and they were asked how VOM could specifically pray for them. The response given is chilling, but convicting:

Do not pray that the persecution stops, but that we can stand strong under it.

I'm not sure that I would be able to reply the same were I undergoing such circumstances. But then, God gives us strength when we need it. He will never have us endure something beyond what we can bear.

American Christianity is in a much sadder state than Chinese Christianity, or Christianity in other areas of persecution. But Christ has already won the battle, and he will work His will through and in America, despite her failings. I truly believe that a revival in America is inevitable in the next 100 years or so, and I'm not talking about an evangelist on Sunday night. Regardless of whether that happens, Christ will be triumphant in the end. That is the glorious hope we, as Christians, have.

I would like to point out that half of my first comment was about the hell aspect of your post. And isn't it interesting how a blog conversation can change topics in a direction not intended? I've had that happen numerous times.

At 2/12/2006 10:02:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

In Sunday School today the teacher read The Martyrdom of Polycarp out of the works of the early church fathers. The following portion, for me at least, really drew together the connection between hell and persecution:

'I will tame thee with fire,' said the proconsul, 'since you despise the wild beasts, unless you repent.'

Then said Polycarp, 'You threaten me with fire, which burns for an hour, and is soon extinguished; but the fire of the future judgment, and of eternal punishment reserved for the ungodly, you are ignorant of. But why do you delay? Do whatever you please.'

Christians are able to stand up under persecution because they have a blessed hope. They know what they deserve, eternal separation from God, and they know what they have been promised, an eternity with Him. The glories and promise of heaven are not the same to my mind without the contrast of the deep pit of hell. It is only when I glimpse what is my just desserts - in a passage like the one from Safely Home - that I can really begin to understand what Christ has done for me and with what He has blessed me. To think that Christ endured hell for three days for my sake, that the Son of God was forsaken by His own Father in hell for me, that is enough to still me.

At 2/13/2006 05:25:00 PM , Blogger zan said...

Hell is very real. I have witnessed people dying who I did not think were Christians (I don't want to assume they weren't) and they were very scared. I think about the way we hide death by putting the ill in hospitals and medicating them to unconsciousness does some harm. (Just want everyone to know that I think pain meds are a great thing for those who need them.) However, I have had relatives of patients asking me to medicate their dying relatives when they are close to death because they (patient) is afraid. I have also seen Christians die and they face death a little different. They are still afraid (dying is not very comfortable, usually, but it isn't as freaky.

On the persecution in China of Christians, my parents Lutheran minister told them that there are more Christians martyred today than any time in history. THe majority is done in China.

At 2/14/2006 11:02:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

Great stuff. Can't really add to it.

Reply to Zan.

That reminds me of the story of Voltaire dying. Well, actually, now that I have done some research, some peoples' report of Voltaire dying. There is a debate, largely centered around Robert Ingersoll, by all accounts an incredibly profane man, who offered a reward to anyone who could prove that Thomas Paine and Voltaire both died in agony and in terror of the afterlife. You can read reports by atheists who claim Voltaire's death was quiet and peaceful. Or you can read the account of Christians who claim he was in terror.

As for me, I don't know what to think about Voltaire; I know that Christians can be right for the wrong reasons, and they can often be wrong for the right reasons. It might be the latter has occurred here. Both sides obviously have a perceived vested interest in their own story.

In any case, I think you are right about people dying in general who are not Christians. They may try to put on a brave front, but it will out in the end. It reminds me of a passage in Anne of the Island, which talks about the death of Ruby Gillis. It's a very moving story. I won't post it here, but you can certainly go to Project Gutenberg and download that whole book for free, or check it out at the library. It's good.

In Christ.

At 2/14/2006 04:37:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

That is such a poignant passage from Anne of the Island. Very sad and pensive. L.M. Montgomery is an excellent writer - one of my favorites. I have wept over some of her books and laughed with others, usually somewhere in between.

At 2/16/2006 12:32:00 PM , Blogger zan said...

I read Anne of the Island long time ago. I remember Ruby dying but will check it out again.

I have read everything that has been published by LM Montgomery.My absolute favorite author.

Once again, I am very surprised that you have read 'Anne' books. I am very impressed.

At 2/19/2006 07:50:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Well, just like Austen's books, they're really more about human nature than they are "romances," though that is certainly there as well.

Incidentally, what does une fille deve mean, Hannah? It's French, right? Maybe, "One Sister Dear?"

In Christ.

At 2/19/2006 08:27:00 AM , Blogger Susan said...

Not sure if Hannah is still following this post, so I'll let her Sister Dear reply. First off, it's "une fille d'eve." That apostrophe is all-important. It means "Daughter of Eve." Can you tell what one of her main obsessions is? ;)

At 2/19/2006 01:37:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

. . . and then methinks to myself, hmmm, I could have actually told Hannah about Adrian's question. . . but then, she's wasn't (and still is not) on the other computer, so how would I do that? *thinks to self*

At 2/19/2006 03:54:00 PM , Blogger une_fille_d'Ève said...

Thank you for answering for me, Sister Dear. I actually am still following this a little, so I probably would have eventually seen it even without your just telling me about it over IM. *ahem* :-)
And it's actually "A daughter of Eve". Not that it makes that much of a difference. Having the "A" there just seems to imply more that I am one of the daughters of Eve, since there are, of course, many!
I had to laugh at your guess, Adrian. :-)

At 2/19/2006 09:49:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Daughter of Eve? Isn't that Tolkein or something? I seem to recall Gimli saying that to Arwen... *chuckles*

So you're using IM, now? Not just blogs to argue. No, that wasn't enough. How do I argue with thee? Let me count the ways. Email, blog, IM, phone, in person, through the Brother Dear, through Parents Dear, snail mail, and last but not least, writing notes in each others' Bibles. Gotta love it.

Actually, I detest IM. There's very little context. I always end up explaining myself more than saying anything substantive.

I'm glad there was some comic relief there with my highly... uneducated guess.

In Christ.

At 2/20/2006 08:20:00 AM , Blogger Susan said...

Hmmm, I must have missed that conversation between Gimli and Arwen. Was that in the book or movie? ;)

Ok, you made me laugh with your list of ways to argue :). In person is always the best way to argue. E-mail we occasionally use, as well as IM. Phone, not sure on that one. Blogs, yes we have evidence of that. We've never used snail mail, and we never argue by writing notes in each other's Bibles. Hannah's detests marking up books (I on the other hand love underlines and highlights. . . ), so I don't think she'd be for that. Now through Parents Dear, yes that has happened, and probably through Brother Dear. Arguing is a fine art.

In general I detest IM, just as I in general detest xanga *shudder*. Not for the program itself, but for the immaturity with which it is usually used. We use IM to talk with Brother Dear and to message someone if we have a quick question, but other than that, we don't use it really. I've tried debates over IM and it doesn't work well.

At 3/01/2006 10:45:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

Don't really have anything to add here, either. Tie it off cordially? We could invent an acronym: TIOC.

Not, of course, that I don't enjoy talking. But sometimes certain topics exhaust themselves after a while, and you want to go on to something else.

In Christ.

At 3/08/2006 08:22:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Ooh, I love acronyms! Agreed to TIOC :).


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