I have noted a recent rise in objections related to the misguided concept, “If God is such a good and loving God, how could he possibly send anyone to Hell?” The folly of such a view is easily brought to light, but that light is quickly dimmed for those who choose not to see.
My online friend, Bailey Joy, describes it as people swimming in their own vomit while telling Christ-followers how we should live our lives.
Know Your Place
There is a phrase tossed about, usually as a control or possibly as an insult, “Know your place.” A more recent version of this same concept it, “Stay in your lane,” or even, “You might wanna sit this one out.” All of these are ways of saying, “You don’t belong here.”
This week, I was intrigued by a three word phrase from Acts 1, a phrase that is tied to the choosing of a successor for Judas Iscariot, and that appears to be related to God sending or not sending people to Hell.
And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”
– Acts 1:24-25, ESV
His . own . place.
Other translations render it as “his proper place,” or “where he belongs,” or “his rightful place,” or “what he deserved.” But τὸν τόπον τὸν ἴδιον is quite literally, “the place the his” or “his own place.” It is peculiarly his own possession.
Judas walked with Jesus, heard him teach, witnessed him perform mind-boggling miraculous signs. Judas interacted with Jesus and with the other disciples for three years non-stop. Yet, he was out of place. He didn’t fit. It wasn’t his element, his lane. Ultimately, in the traumatic events of Jesus’ final week, Judas showed us “his place.”
What IS My Place?
Every man or woman has idios topos, a place of our own, and it makes me wonder about the afterlife in an odd way. What if the afterlife is an existence wherein I am surrounded by people who are just like me and you are surrounded by people just like you. Not people who compliment you, or partner well with you. People you are just like you in every respect.
Mister Rogers is surrounded by millions of others who are just like Mister Rogers. Donald Trump is surrounded by millions of Trump personalities. And so forth … It’s an odd thing to ponder, and it makes me reconsider the way in which I interact with others.
We can read that phrase “his own place” as each of us going to a place that is befitting to us. For some, that place is an environment populated with Bible-believing, Bible-embracing Christ-followers. For others it will be an environment of Bible-denying, self-engrossed, God-ignoring masses. It is my place, or their place. It is what each embraced and loved. Thus, each of us will be with like-minded souls in “our place.”
In the context of Jesus “coming soon,” Revelation 22 talks about each of us being in our place. It doesn’t use that language, but it does shed light on the concept.
Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.
– Revelation 22:11, ESV
Pretending a Place (a faith)
We all know there are those who pretend a faith they don’t possess. I’m uncertain why people do this because it never works out for them. Peter having described the trials of walking faithfully as a Christ-follower says this:
These [trials] have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
– 1 Peter 1:7-8, NIV
Even as I write this, I can see the faces of so many I have known and ministered to over the years who illustrate the tragedy of what Peter has said. When my faith is not genuine and the trials come, I bail out and die in the flames. A genuine faith will not only endure the fiery trial, it will be refined and purified by that fire.
An artificial faith does not alter one’s fundamental character. Jesus verbalized a scathing rebuke of the scribes and Pharisees, saying that though they appeared beautiful and holy to the masses, they were but whitewashed tombs, filled with dead men’s bones.1 The external façade does not reflect the internal reality, and their “place” is not with those of sincere faith.
Peter describes the dog who licks up his own vomit, or the washed pig who returns to wallowing in the mire.2 But the transformational work done by the Holy Spirit will give life to the dead bones within us and will transform our heart of stone to a heart of flesh.3 In that, God delivers us from the power of darkness, and translates us into the kingdom of his dear Son.4
That, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is our “place,” the place that Jesus has prepared for us.5
1. Matthew 23:27
2. 2 Peter 2:22
3. Ezekiel 36:22-28
4. Colossians 1:13
5. John 14:3