Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Burning Sea

Sitting on the plane I looked out the window just after takeoff. A sepia sea grew wider underneath me changing as quickly as we flew. It felt like I was upside down underwater looking up at the surface but it was dark, opaque and thin. At first I thought it might be the moon but it had too much color; then I thought it might be the lights on the plane but then I realized we were too far to reflect them; finally I realized the lights from Atlanta just below me were casting their orange ambience on the clouds. Staring down felt like an eerie dream of a burning sea, vast and empty, limited only by the distance I could see. Suddenly I wondered if this is how God sees us when he stares down from heaven - a burning sea. What does hell look like?

 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. – Revelation 7:9 (NIV)
Paul records an immeasurable amount of people before the throne of God and again in Revelation 19 with a more specific reference to those dressed in white, implying their righteousness through salvation. If those who are before the throne are so great that they cannot be measured then taking into account Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:13-14 –
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
How many more people are in hell than heaven? Why haven’t I realized this before? Why hasn’t that saddened me more?

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
Imagining such an incredible amount of people in torment made me want to cry just then, for the first time I felt true sadness for them. How does God feel? He loves us all so much and yet so few get to stay with him. Maybe that’s why his love for the saints is so incomprehensible. I thought of how I react when I lose something I love – it makes everything I do have that much more precious. How precious are we to him? The ones that make it home. Who am I to be so lucky? Two days later, I’m still not sure what this epiphany will change, but perhaps it’s grounded me more in the urgency with which we ought to share our faith.