The Gospel from Hell

God so loved the world and yet, so hated its sin that his anger was pitted against his love. Love and wrath, good and evil, eternal struggle, is found in God himself, between Father and Son. Thus, the Father killed the Shepherd of the sheep and spilt his blood so that he would not utterly destroy the sheep but would contain the infinite wideness of his anger.  His righteous wrath is forever so that the ninety and nine find the broad path unto eternal torment while he saves the few through killing the Shepherd. Who can fathom his ways? The narrow way of mercy passes like the weaver’s shuttle at midnight, hidden as it is in the dark mysteries of the divine decree. No man can know his mighty whim, for it blows like the wind, redeeming but a few and preserving the multitude for the smelting pot of his anger. Save but for the good pleasure of the Father in the torture and death of the innocent Son, his eye would turn not from executing his infinite justice.  

It is the Father’s righteous decree alone by which man must abide and here alone, at Eden and Sinai, do we glimpse his immanent counsel.  Under this law, the Great Shepherd, the divine Son, has borne the eternal wrath of the Father so that the fires of hell are poured out upon Christ on the cross. Here the Father has turned his back and hidden his face from the Son so that sin and death rent the Trinity asunder.  The anger of the Father would spend itself in divine violence upon the Son so as to reconcile the eternal attributes of his anger and his love. Thus, did he kill the Shepherd of the sheep so as to appease his infinite wrath. As it is said, “Strike the Shepherd for the great love of the sheep.”  The Father delights in the death of his Son for Jesus blood cools the Lord’s hot anger.  Though it may pain him greatly, the dead Jesus is pleasing in the Father’s sight, as here his righteous decree has found satisfaction.  Here the penalty of death is transformed into the way of salvation so that death and hell, taken up into the Father through the Son, are the eternal bridge.  The penalty is the Way, as Christ has died so that the sheep do not have to.  He has borne the cross so that we know not the way of the cross.

Christ’s righteousness is imputed unto us in God’s hidden counsel so that the heavy burden of the Sermon on the Mount and Plain is lifted from us.  He calls unto his sheep, who know not his way, “Lay the burden of your cross upon me. I alone do all things through him who strengthens me. Your faith in my works frees you from following in my way. Who among you can turn the other cheek? Fear not, I have received the blow on your behalf.” So it is that faith alone saves, apart from deeds, as intensity of belief in Christ saves from the burden of imitating the faithfulness of Christ. Show me your belief apart from your works as a sign that Christ alone saves.  As the scripture says, “We sin that grace may abound.” It was sin, after all, which accomplished redemption.

In God’s eternal decree he appointed evil men to slay the Lord of Glory so that by this means, the worst sin and evil – killing the Son, accomplishes the greatest good – satisfying the wrath of God.  God required evil to accomplish the just end of saving a few.  The principle established in the divine economy, using evil to accomplish the good, demonstrates the eternal law pronounced by God’s most righteous servant.  Take and eat, knowing the good and evil and thus knowing God. Take up the law unto thyself and arbitrate the infinite ethical struggle.

God is split within himself and we are to be in his image: The spiritual law from the Father punishes the incarnate Son, and as we punish our body for the law, we are found in Christ. “I do what I do not want, and what I want, I cannot do. In this split against myself – the law of my mind against my body –  I am saved.” Resist not the suffering of the Lord as this is the means of salvation!  Crucify the body that the spirit may live. Remember that only the flesh, and not the Spirit, received the nails and died. Destruction of the body achieves the salvation of the soul.  Some suffer from within and some from without, but as the great Apostle has said, suffering and death redeem. Infinite suffering and death redeem eternally and we are called, as God’s children, to obtain redemption.

Just as those who killed Christ are divinely prompted to take up the nails, we too may have to drive Gospel nails.  Is this holy violence not that of Christ in the Temple conveyed to his disciples when he demands they produce a sword?  The divine lash that fell on the money changers and the holocaust unleashed on God’s enemies, like the cross itself, liberates through punishment. Infidels need to be brought to repentance and God’s enemies subdued. Are we not instruments of his wrath, so that the greater good will only come through necessary evil?  As scripture says, “We must do evil that his grace may abound.”  It is only in the name of God that evil is done in blissful joy, knowing we are the instruments of redemption. “Here am I,” Jesus proclaims, “crucify me that the demands of the law be met.”

God’s warriors must take up the sword of the Lord to liberate his people, as through Christ, freedom has continually moved from east to west, as recorded in Acts.  As the Gospel has spread, progress has accelerated, so that we can look backward to Jerusalem to see from whence we came. The backward people of the east are clamoring to modernize, move west, become Christian, and free. The western most province, God’s city set on a hill, his light to the nations, where every fallen soldier has secured for us Christ’s liberty, is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Here the cross is wielded as a sword and the few, the proud, the brave, fight under this sign.  Old glory is hoisted on a cross and the most sacred precincts contain the slaughter bench of holy sacrifice for just war.

I have not spoken to you of resurrection, of the Church, of the life of Christ, or of the Old Testament, as these are of no importance. As Jesus taught the two on the road to Emmaus, “Ye search your scriptures for me but in them I am not to be found. Put off the old wine skin and replace it with the new. Think ye no more of the Old Testament and its kingdoms. Look ye unto the disembodied heavenly future which intersecteth not with this world.” So what if the body of Jesus is raised, spiritual reality is not found in the flesh.  To what end the Church, other than an intermediate measure awaiting God’s spiritual kingdom.  It is in this great disembodied Gospel that liberal, conservative, and fundamentalist can unite.

Through the most primitive evangel we know we shall not die but knowing good and evil we will be like God.  Only by continuously instituting this eternal struggle between good and evil do we attain the divine likeness. Struggle and violence, war and plague, these are God’s mercies by which his righteous peace is achieved. The inward struggle of the law must be turned to sacred violence in infinite sacrifice.  The blood of Abel cries out with the blood of hundreds of millions, so that as the Prophet proclaimed, “Let justice flow down with blood and let death reign.” In Christ crucified, death has taken its proper place in the Godhead, seated at the right hand of the Father.

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Author: Paul Axton

Paul V. Axton spent 30 years in higher education teaching theology, philosophy, and Bible. Paul’s Ph.D. work and book bring together biblical and psychoanalytic understandings of peace and the blog, podcast, and PBI are shaped by this emphasis.

2 thoughts on “The Gospel from Hell”

  1. Paul, I’ll add what I posted on my FB wall when I shared this:

    Not since C.S. Lewis’ famous Screwtape Letters have I read anyone so convincingly satirize a demonic perspective.

    Unfortunately, what Paul Axton has articulated here is, unbeknownst to many, the gospel as they see it.

    You’ve been able to reveal the horrors of what has passed for the gospel my entire life.

  2. Yes – that pretty much sums up what vast swaths of evangelicals believe. That is no gospel at all. Thanks for this!!

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