Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Judgment Day: Judge Judy or Mythbusters? Dan McMonagle

Dan is one of my music friends over on Twitter. Any time I tweet something about playing, I can pretty much count on a response from him, which is great, because I totally geek out about stuff like that. It's always a little scary to post about hell on your site, but Dan has managed to somehow make this a light-hearted post. Don't be fooled though, this will get you thinking as well!


Part I: the “Dream”

I had a dream a few nights ago that scared the crud out of me! It was judgment day, but we weren’t standing before God: we were on the set of “Judge Judy” with a studio audience and a wacked out cast of characters. {Not a real dream… just roll with it…. ;-}

Thankfully, I wasn’t on trial -- I was the court reporter, hammering at the steno machine, trying to record the events & discussion going on around me. Two things annoyed me: a) I don’t know shorthand (stenotype?), and b) I couldn’t ruminate on the dialogue, I barely had time to record it.

Before we were called to order, I noticed various authors, pastors and bloggers mulling around the room, as well as some historical figures:

Rob Bell was chatting with Mahatma Ghandi;

John Piper and Mark Driscoll were each addressing a small crowd of their faithful followers;

Rachel Held Evans was sitting with Anne Frank, listening to her story;

Francis Chan and Greg Boyd were locked in a deep discussion, not arguing but listening and trying to understand each other;

Hemant Mehta was glancing around the room, shaking his head and wondering aloud “Why are we here? Nothing exists after death.”

There was also some guy wearing a white robe, listening and watching, but not speaking up…. I think maybe that was Jesus.

Judge Judy finally came in, court was called to order, and the following is the transcript as best as I remember it:

JJ: “Well, what do we have on the docket today? Is this one case… 20 separate cases… how far does that line go out the door?”

Piper: “Your honor, we’ve got a real mess here…. The Bible clearly states how we determine who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, but half the people here can’t agree…..” (a snort came from the direction of Hemant, momentarily distracting Piper.)

Bell: “Actually, there’s been disagreement regarding the scriptures for as long as there have been ‘Christians’. Are we really supposed to believe that God intends most people to be tortured for eternity? Ghandi lived an exemplary life of love and sacrifice… who are we to assume that he wasn’t answering God’s call?”


Chan: “Actually, Mark, that would make Rob an ‘Inclusivist’, not necessarily a universalist. Now, I understand that many of us don’t WANT to believe in hell – but we can’t just ignore what the scriptures say about eternity….”

Boyd: “Eternity? When I read the scriptures, I read that the wages of sin is death and that people perish. Have you ever considered that maybe that means…. “

JJ: “Timeout! Jesus – you seem to be a central figure in this debate, yet you’re keeping strangely silent right now. What do you have to say?”

JC: “I know my sheep and my sheep know me. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen…. They too will listen to my voice and there shall be one flock and one

A chorus of voices chimed in, “Lord, I know your voice!” Ghandi and Anne Frank both smiled and took deep breaths; Hemant rolled his eyes.

JC:”Of course, many will say ‘Lord, didn’t we do great things in your name?’, and I’ll say ‘Sorry, I never knew you.’”

JJ:”What? You’re no help at all! How am I supposed to sort this out?”

Then, I woke up…… What a nightmare!

I doubt that many believe “judgment day” will be like this chaotic illustration. But, I suspect most believers anticipate that our “judgment” before God will be handled like a court case, where evidence will be viewed and weighed.

Part II: the “Experiment"

What if “judgment” doesn’t come in the form of a “trial” or court case? I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that it’s going to be more like a physics experiment. What if judgment day is akin to something you might see on Mythbusters?

Jamie: “Today, we’re going to put Dan’s soul to the test. Just how are we going to do that, Adam?”

Adam: “Well, Jamie, this hot tub-sized vat contains a toxic mix of sulfuric acid and molten lava with a twist of lime. Dan’s soul will be plunged in the mix for 60 seconds – how do you think he’ll do, Kari?”

Kari: “Hmm. Dan seems like a good guy, but does he do nice things as an act so
people will like him, or has God really been working through him, building up a
spiritual body that can survive this incredible heat?”

Jamie: “I don’t know, Kari, but we’re about to find out. Hit the button, Adam!”


I think “judgment” may boil down to (no pun intended) discovering what we are made of. Not the words we speak, the books we read, or even our “works, so that no man can boast.” We will find out what we are made of.

If GOD IS the infinite source of light and love, what happens to us when we enter into His presence? What happens when we encounter the all-consuming fire of the love of God? That depends….

Have we been storing up “Treasures in Heaven” or “Fuel for the Fire”?

That which is pure and holy within us – treasures made for Heaven and forged by acts of love – will be refined by the fire and become even more beautiful.

The fluff? The facades? The “wood, hay and stubble”? Like tossing kindling into a roaring fire, it may be gone faster than we can say “but wai………”

Where does Jesus fit in this picture? He redeems us and makes us new: he is the
source of all that is pure and precious within us.

I don’t know about you, but on my own, I’m basically a selfish, stinky turd. If I have any “treasures in heaven” within me, they have been forged in those moments when I’ve surrendered to God, laid down my selfish desires and done “the right thing” in spite of myself.

That which has been refined and purified (i.e., the works of “following Jesus” and answering God’s call) will survive. That which is built on our own merit… not so much. (1 Cor. 3:11-15).

What about the Ghandi’s and Anne Frank’s of the world? In Romans 1:14-15, Paul writes that “when Gentiles… who don’t have the law… do by nature things required by the law… they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts.” Does that sound like “treasures in heaven” or “fuel for the fire”?

Hmm…. If it swims like a fish….

How about those that flat-out lived for evil? (Hitler? Stalin?) Maybe there’s a hellish alternative to heavenly treasures? Creosote soaked lumber? Firelogs soaked in kerosene? I imagine that sort of “fuel for the fire” could burn a very long time!

Honestly, we cannot know with any certainty how God will handle judgment, as the methods of “Judgment Day” are impossible for even the Mythbusters to verify.

So, how do we live with the "I don't know"?

Love God… and TRUST that He knows what He’s doing!

Love our neighbors as ourselves.

Study the Word and seek the truth, but be patient and understanding when others don’t see things as we do. After all, they might not be the one that’s wrong!

What do you think about Judgment Day? Will it be similar
to a court case, a physics experiment, or something altogether different?


Dan McMonagle lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and three boys. A mathematician, a musician, and now a fledgling blogger, Dan often keeps "too many irons in the fire".  When he's not busy with his day job as an actuary, Dan likes to spend his time involved with kid's sports (baseball, football), church (musician, worship leader, works with kids) and family life.


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