Chapter 51 - Christopher Love on the Glories of Heaven and the Terrors of Hell
A Puritan hallmark is that this life is preparation for the next.
Christopher Love was a Puritan, a Westminster delegate, and was beheaded in Cromwell's time for his part in a conspiracy to bring back Charles II. So his writing on anticipating heaven is unique.
- The glory of heaven is seeing Christ.
- Prepare yourself now by avoiding frivolity.
- Glorification involves seeing Christ, freedom from sin, blessings of knowing more than we can now. Where is our faculties to serve?
- Some will be more blessed than ever, and we can increase our blessing there by our living here.
- Heaven is a place and we will live there, not on a new earth. They didn't deny earth would be renovated, but focused on going to God where He is.
- At death the possibilities for what happens to the soul are 4: it goes to heaven, hell, purgatory or is annihilated. The last choice is atheism. Purgatory denies and replaces the atonement of Christ for sin. Love doesn't deal with soul sleep, but Puritans rejected it as Westminster confession 32:1 shows.
- The resurrection of the body is hard to conceive physically happening, but God is all powerful. It is also great comfort when we face death.
- Puritans "sought to instill a terror of hell" (830), following 2 Cor. 5:11 and Matt. 10:28.
- Preaching hell is not legalism, or Christ was a legalist. Avoiding this unpleasant truth "nuzzle[s] men in security in their sins" (831).
- Several scriptures directly assert the reality of hell (Luke 16:19-31; Matthew 23:33; 2 Peter 2:3-4), and even the ancient pagans spoke of it.
- Hell is necessary because of the "sinfulness of sin against a holy God" (832).
- Hell is a place of fire, outer darkness, wrath, punishment, a prison and pit.
- How can eternal punishment be just? Punishments often last longer than the crime took to commit. Sins against greater persons have greater punishments, so sin against the infinite God brings infinite punishment. Sinners in hell continue to sin. Sin cannot be made up for by doing good.
- Most of mankind will be consigned to Hell, since most will not trust Christ (Matt.22:14).
- The torments of Hell include absence of God (Matt. 25:41) and believers, physical punishment by demons (Matt 18:34) and the devil without rest. The punishment is eternal (Matt. 3:12; Jude 7; 2 Thess. 1:9; Matt. 25:46; Isa. 66:24). The worm is the conscience that will torment with regret and remorse but no hope of remedy.
- Jesus did not descend into Hell literally according to most Reformers and Puritans it is a synonym for His burial or for many an expression of His suffering the wrath of God on the cross. They read 1 Peter 3:19 as referring to what Jesus did in Noah's time.
Christopher Love is a good representation of Puritan thought on Heaven and Hell. "His heart was in heaven," and so should ours be (840).
As I near the end of this tome, and having listened a bit to Ken Myers recently on culture, I am of two minds on the Puritans' view of Heaven and Hell. In one sense it is excellent, Biblical and edifying, pointing us to Christ and away from sin. In another sense it is rather myopic. Sin and forgiveness, certainly the central core of our faith, seems to be the only thing the Puritans could talk about. Questions like what we will do in Heaven are not addressed. Some questions they do address hardly seem worth asking. Will the fire of Hell be literal/physical? How long will the judgment take?
I disagreed on two points. The Puritans largely believed that we will have our home in heaven, NOT on a new earth. And they said Jesus did not descend to Hell. The Apostles' Creed should either be changed or it should be taken to refer to Jesus' sufferings before death or to His burial. I prefer a simple reading of 1 Peter 3:19, which says Jesus went to Hell after He suffered to preach to the spirits confined there since they disobeyed.
I learned some history at the beginning, about some churchmen working against Cromwell to bring Charles II back as king!
On the whole, the main portion of the chapter was edifying in its meditation on aspects of Heaven and Hell.