Hell is for liars Part 2: The Heart of the Lie
In part 1 of this series, I pointed out that God will not allow liars into heaven (Rev 21.8), and then pointed out some of the lies that will keep you from heaven. Some wanted to make a distinction between those actively lying by trying to deceive, and those duped by the lies. But those who read closely understood that objection was answered implicitly with the analogy of poison: It doesn't matter if you drink poison because someone lied to you and told you it was a harmless soft drink; Or because you've deceived yourself and are now convinced that the poison - say arsenic - is not really poison at all, and it won't harm you, in fact it's good for you so you consume lots of it. (Think "did God really say..." Gen 3.1) - regardless of what causes you to drink the poison whether you're actively deceiving (yourself) or are merely deceived and believe the lie, if you drink it, you will die.
Likewise, there may be various reason that people hold to a lie. But regardless of how or why, if you hold to a lie that keeps you from believing that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God who created both the universe and you (John 1.3), who died in your place to save you (1 Pe 3.18) and is the only way to God (Acts 4.12) any lie that keeps you from these truths will likewise keep you out of the place where Jesus will be: in heaven with his people. (Rev 21.1-3) Instead, your destiny will be the fires of hell created originally for Satan. (Matt 25.41) Thus if you want nothing to do with Jesus because believe that Jesus had nothing to do with the creation of you or the universe because you've been persuaded by scientists that the universe is the result of an uncaused big bang, and you are the result of millions of years of evolution and blind chance - if those lies keep you from Jesus, they will also keep you from heaven.
So at the close of the previous article we were left to ponder, "What is it that motivates people to hold to such obvious lies? What's at the heart of these lies that drives people to throw away heaven, and put blinders on so they don't have to watch as they walk the path to hell?"
Let's look at both sides of the coin: the liar, and the lied to. The deceiver and the one who believes the deceiver (and thus perpetuates the lie). Thus we will turn to the fall of Satan (the deceiver), and the fall of Adam and Eve (the deceived). Let us look first at the fall of Satan:
In his heart of hearts, Satan makes 5 statements that make it clear that he believes he is greater than God, and should sit in the place of God. He tells himself 1. He will ascend to heaven - the place of God; 2. that he will raise his throne above God's throne, above the highest parts of Gods creation - the stars; 3. He will sit in the place of God at the highest point of the sacred mount of assembly reserved for God, 4. His glory will be above the glory (the clouds) of God; and finally 5. He will make himself like God - the most high.
How does a finite, created being come to the conclusion that he is greater than the eternal, perfect, omnipotent and holy God? The prophet Ezekiel spells it out for us:
Though I'm a staunch evangelical protestant, it is instructive to view how the early church viewed the sin of pride. The early church would of course be the Catholic church in the days before Luther, Calvin and the other reformers.
Around 375 a monk named Evagrius Ponticus began "to catalog the temptations that lure men to hell, creating a list of the most dangerous. Evagrius believed that there were 8 terrible temptations of the soul, and pride was one of the deadliest." He called it "a tumor of the soul, filled with puss." Around 590 AD Pope Gregory the Great revisited Evagrius' list. "He narrowed it to 7, changed their name from temptations to sins and proclaimed that they were deadly. To Pope Gregory, pride was the worst of the seven deadly sins. The one that contained the seed of every evil. He wrote, 'Pride is the beginning of all sin.'" Perhaps he had the fall of Lucifer in mind.
It's easy to see why pride is considered the seed of every evil, and the chief vice, under which all other vices work together. Once pride convinces you that you are the most important thing in all creation - more important even than God - how can that not influence all your actions? If you are the most important thing, and the measure of all things - instead of God, why not have everything your way? Why not lie, cheat and steal? After all, it's for your benefit, and you're more important than anyone - including the one you're lying to, cheating, and stealing from. If you see yourself as knowing better than God, and thus not answerable to God - is there any action or think you desire that should be denied you? Of course not! Because you know better than the omniscient creator of the universe!
Therefore, since at the heart of pride is the thought that you know better and in fact are better than all else - including God, such pride thus breaks the first commandment: "You shall have no other gods before me." (Ex 20.3) Because as Satan did, pride causes you to put yourself in the place of God. There can be but one cure which comes in two parts: 1. Humble yourself and return God to his rightful place on His throne as king over all and 2. Trust that God is good and loves you and has only good in mind for you. As he told the exiles in Babylon "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jer 29.11) We may not be exiles in Babylon, but we are strangers in a strange land (1 Pe 2.11). Part of believing God is believing He always has our bests interests at heart - even in difficult times. (Heb 12.7)
But there's more to the effects of pride than the condition of thinking of yourself as better then everyone and everything - as Satan did. Inherent in thinking the best of yourself, is thinking less of others (including God). And in thinking less of others consequentially there's an impairment of your judgment. You can no longer give others the full respect, honor, or whatever is due them because you're too busy giving it to yourself. Consequentially you can no longer see the value in others, nor can you see the dangers your impaired judgment puts you in.
Consider for example a designer of bridges. Let us suppose there's a master designer and engineer who has designed and engineered the greatest, strongest, most beautiful and enduring bridges in the world. He's won award after award for his design elegance and engineering efficiency. Let us also suppose in your pride (which leads to arrogance) you consider yourself to be the greatest bridge builder who ever lived, and you decide to prove it by building a bridge to allow access to your home. You build it, and wanting the world to know your superiority, invite the master bridge builder over so he can praise your work (which you can then share with the world). But instead of praising your work he tells you there's a fatal flaw in the design, which if not fixed, will cause the bridge to collapse.
Confident you know better, and that he doesn't know what he's talking about, you expel the master builder from your property and your bridge. You determine he's not worthy of what you've accomplished, and you will keep it to yourself and those who can appreciate it.
You know the end of the story right? The master builder was right, and the bridge collapses with its prideful, arrogant builder on it, both falling to their destruction in the chasm below. And note this - those who believed the arrogant builder and were on the bridge, disregarding the warnings of the master bridge builder perished as well - simply because they too believed the decption. You likely already see the application as well: God is the master designer. As the creator with perfect knowledge of all things, he knows how to build things correctly, and he knows what is destined to fail. He has created this universe for us to live in. It's a universe infused with his moral character through and through. He's given multiple testimonies to it: the universe itself (Rom 1.20), conscience (Rom 2.15), His word the Bible, and the living Word Jesus (John 1.1). We deny these testimonies at our own peril. (Rom 2.5)
God has given us a choice: we can live safely and happily within the moral structure he has given us; or we can go off on our own, and in our pride pretend we've left behind his moral dictates so that we can build our own; one we believe is a superior to his. But alas, such a supposed superior world is an impossible delusion, for nothing can surpass the designs of the master creator and builder: God. Thus in the end you will wind up doing as Satan did: deceiving yourself into thinking you're superior to God; thinking you will replace his creation with yours; his morality with yours; his truth with yours. But in the end God's truth - the truth, will prevail and will be revealed. You cannot surpass or replace God, and in attempting to do so, all you will wind up doing is making yourself worthy to be cast out of God's presence, and destined for the flames of destruction we call hell - as was Satan. (Matt 25.41)
Consider our second case: the temptation of Eve who was conquered by deception. Both the deception of Satan (who was masquerading as a serpent) and her own self deception that's a result of pride. What is it that blinded her enough to disbelieve God? Was it not the temptation to be "like God" (Gen 3.5) . In her pride and her arrogance she ignored the one and only command God had given them to leave the one tree sacred (Gen 2.17), and disregarded the fact that she was already like God because she was made in God's image. (Gen 1.26) She deceived herself by telling herself none of that mattered. In her pride all that mattered was what she thought and what she wanted. Therefore, as scripture tells us, "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it." (Gen 3.6) Notice the culminating work of Pride: She disregarded everything she formerly knew to be true about God and his goodness. She no longer believed God, who is all good and never lies. (Is 45.19) All she cared about was herself and what she thought. She blinded herself to the terrible judgment to come that God had warned about and instead believed the lie of the serpent: "you shall not surely die." (Gen 3.4) I think the early Christians had it right: at the heart of the folly was the deadly sin of pride.
Today pride is super-charged. We have science, and technology. We know such more than those ancient people. Thus we think, "How can we not know better than those ancient people? We're now liberated from their ancient and antiquated beliefs." It's true that science can tell us much about the physical world, but it cannot change the nature of reality: we live in a morally infused universe constructed by a perfectly holy God. A God who will not tolerate lies, particularly those generated by the deceit of pride.
So we're each of us faced with a choice: to let the deceitfulness of pride run rampant, telling ourselves we know better than God - about creation and marriage; about right and wrong; about life and death, about abortion and euthanasia, about genders sexuality and identities, and so on. Or we can humble ourselves before God and acknowledge His truth - so that at the proper time he may lift us up. (1 Pe 5.6)
God has given us the ability to choose our destination by allowing us to choose to live by the truth; or choosing the flattery of pride and living in our own made up lie(s). The choice is ours. Just remember: Pride leads to self-deception. And liars don't go to heaven. (Rev 21.8) Neither do the deceived who believe the lie. (2 Thess 2.11-12)
Now choose wisely. Want to follow the truth? Jesus said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14.6)
Duane Caldwell | June 2, 2018
1. The "Catholic" church
originally referred to the church universal as it does in the
Apostles Creed. You'll note that most sites that post the Apostle's
creed will note that the statement "I believe in... the holy catholic
church" refers not to the Roman Catholic church - but the church
universal - that is all the redeemed believers - not just the select set
of believers in the Roman Catholic church
5. Though Eve was not created at the time God gave the
prohibition, it is clear she was aware of the command because she
repeats it - with an in an incorrect embellishment - to the serpent.