Part One: Before Time
“The Cause of Hell”
Beelzebub’s Amazing Choices
BT (Before Time) — Amazing! I thought the creation of the Host was amazing. My own creation was amazing. Not to mention God’s very existence.
But among these events another has just occurred that demands admittance to the same class, if not to the head of it.
Our great, beautiful, and wise leader has just rebelled against God!
How could the paragon of created wisdom do that? Amazing!
We even had to coin a new word to distinguish the kind of “amazing” that applies to what God has done from the kinds of “amazing” that apply to what Beelzebub just did.
VerseScout: Matthew 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. (See also Matthew 10:25; 12:27; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15,18,19)
VerseScout Relevance Report: This name for Satan is of Chaldean origin. It means “Dung God”. A slightly altered pronunciation of the title survives in English, in the epithet preferred today by polite Christians as an alternative to “damn”: “Dang”.
So the word we came up with, to refer to that aspect of “amazing” which was uniquely Beelzebub’s, was “stupid”.
VerseScout: Matthew 5:22 …without a cause…whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
VerseScout Relevance Report: What word describes Satan’s rebellion? This verse lists things we must not do “without a cause” – without justification. Except that in all English translations, “without a cause” modifies only the first item on the list, and not calling someone a fool. However, the flexibility of Greek word order may permit the clause to modify all three, which avoids a contradiction with 20 verses in the New Testament in which God’s people use this same Greek word to describe men. (Mt 7:26, 23:17,19, 25:2,3,8, Ro 2:20, 1Co 1:18,20,21,23,25,27, 2:14, 3:18,19 4:10, Eph 5:4, 2Ti 2:23, and Tit 3:9.)
The warning that careless accusation may lead to Hell should be sobering enough to discourage its over-use. But on the other hand, when one’s condition really is as serious as this word is, should we speak accurately?
To say any less than the truth about sin is to risk the curse of Isaiah 5:20: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil…” See also the curse of Ezekiel 3:18-20, which says if we fail to warn a sinner, his sentence will be transferred to us.
God put them in our vocabulary for a holy purpose. When we use them for a profane purpose, or conversely when we do not use them when Truth cries for it, the result is disastrous, and we justly risk Hell.
What makes the new word so appropriate is how much smarter he used to be than we are, compared with which, he now acts like he is in a “stupor”. In other words, his intelligence appears to be largely inaccessible to him.
Temporarily, I trust! Just look at him out there, at war with God! Oops, got to go! Firefight!
BT2 – That was a pretty short war! Beelzebub didn’t have a chance, of course. What possessed him to try?! What was he trying to accomplish?
Well, at least I think the war was short. The attacks appear to be over. The Thunder Bombs – sickening low rib-rattling rumblings produced by their six-stringed sound cannons – have died down.
But they are jumping up and down and shouting that they have won!
What is all this bad-smelling billowing blackness, above and bounding Beelzebub and his brigades? Until someone comes up with a better name for it, I’m going to call it “smoke”. But what causes it?
And the colors! The fire has changed colors! Now, where it surrounds the Fallen, (uh, excuse me: the “winners”), it is orange!
But back to Beelzebub.
Has he really made himself oblivious of the fact that he could not even have started his “war” except by God’s consent, which was given only long enough for his followers to see their folly, in the hope that would bring them to their senses?
VerseScout: 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
It is so illogical that I am left with wild speculation. Did he think he could kill God? And if he did, did he think he could live, himself, without God sustaining him?
Absurd, of course, yet so is every other possibility.
My concern is for all who left God, who should have known better. But my questions focus on Beelzebub, because he really knows better.
More troublesome than that – and scarier: this had been such a surprise.
Are there more surprises ahead?
Of course not. What’s wrong with my faith, that I could wonder such a thing even for a moment? Surely this is the first and last time anyone will ever rebel against God! Beelzebub will quickly accept the reconciliation offered by God, and all this will survive only in our jokes.
As brief as everyone knows this rebellion will be, the logical puzzle posed by Beelzebub’s rebellion still intrigues me.
Maybe he thought he could defeat God, somehow, without killing God. But for what?! Not only cannot I comprehend the wisest of all creatures embarking upon such a hopeless mission, but I can’t come up with a motive.
There is the reason he himself gave me, when he tried to persuade me to join him, but it is equally implausible. He had said his goal was to push himself away, even if only slightly, from God’s loving arms, so they weren’t wrapped so tightly around him, “smothering” him, so he could have just a little “freedom”.
“Just a little”, he had emphasized, though whatever significance that had floated over my head.
“Freedom!” What an amazing – or rather – no, we’ll just leave it at “amazing” – use he makes of that wonderful word! By it, he doesn’t mean maximum opportunity to worship, love, obey, and learn from God! He doesn’t mean the adventure of partnering with God in imagining a better, more interesting reality, and then proceeding by God’s authority to make it so!
I’ve been struggling to grasp what he does mean by the word. I almost think he wants “freedom” from the Adventure we call “life”. “Freedom”, even, from sharing the power of God!
He talked about how we are distinct from one another. Well, technically, I suppose, you could say we are, just as the individual lovatons that comprise our bodies are distinct from one another. So far so good, I suppose.
But then he made an “amazing” leap from that premise. He said it made more sense, therefore, to work to satisfy our own “selves”, as he called us, than to sacrifice our “individual desires”, as he called them, on the “altar” of love of neighbor.
I had tried to get out of him how our “individual desires” could possibly differ from the needs of the entire Body of our Angelic Host, of which we individual angels are but parts, like the individual lovatons of our individual bodies.
He said something about it being more relaxing, or comfortable, to not have to think beyond the immediate needs of our “selves”. He said it takes mental effort, which causes “stress”, as he called it (he likes that new word especially), to create good things, because creating is a team effort that requires us to think about what will serve others along with what will serve ourselves. Success also requires paying attention to God’s advice, which would better be spent on one’s “self”, he told us.
I had said, “But if we forget blessing others, why, we would have to forget love!”
He had answered cryptically, “That’s the point! Love of others is not in our best interests! Love of others is contrary to our own interests! That is why we must oppose it.”
VerseScout: Psalms 109:4 For my love they are my adversaries: [or, “they hate me for loving them!”] but I give myself unto prayer. 5 And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
He concluded, “A truly logical being will become a lover of his own self!”
I would have expected a “truly logical being” to notice that “Love of self” is an oxymoron, since “love” only has a clear meaning when focused outside one’s “self”, to use his term.
VerseScout: John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Beelzebub even made a new word for the attitude he thought proper for an angel: “self-ish”.
But even if one wanted to be self-ish, how ‘amazing’ it is to stop wanting to help others! What about all our luxuries that we have because we help each other? Our cooperation is what makes technology possible.
But the greatest luxury of all is Love itself! Love feels like happiness. Love is happiness.
I tried to decipher Beelzebub’s strange sayings, and the strange contortions of his face into completely unfamiliar shapes, requiring the use of twice as many facial muscles, if possible suggesting that he was not full of joy. But what else is there is to feel?
After watching Beelzebub, I didn’t have much desire to find out.
Beyond that problem, I couldn’t figure out how anyone could want to deny himself the ecstasy, the full life, the sense of worth, the adventure, and the sheer happiness of doing wonderful things for others – being wonderfully useful – alongside God. Since that is much of what there is to live for, what purpose would remain if we “loved” only ourselves?!
At my horror of the consequences his path would bring upon our Body, he insisted our Body would become far stronger if each part of it were under pressure to struggle “as if its life depended on it.” The process would weed out the weak members, he maintained, leaving only the strongest.
“Survival of the fittest”, he termed it.
Well, in the first place, there was never a threat to anyone’s survival before Beelzebub invented “self-ishness”. But now smell the stench of death all around, especially pungent nearest Beelzebub himself!
VerseScout: Romans 7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
VerseScout Relevance Report: The Bible frequently uses words like “death” to describe a spiritual stupor while the body remains physically alive.
Beelzebub talked as if we need the incentive of sheer survival to stretch our minds. He talked as if mere survival has greater power to motivate us to our capacity than love!
That doesn’t appear to be true for Beelzebub or his screaming spiritual scions! They all have lost most of their strength, and most, their ability to reason. None have reduced their “stress”, or increased the peace they now claim! Quite the contrary!
VerseScout: Jeremiah 6:14 They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, [GW: They treat my people’s wounds as though they were not serious] saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.
Beelzebub says I am so constituted that I would become stronger if I were motivated by a threat to my very survival, rather than “merely” by love.
How is that even logically possible? Let me diagram this idea:
1. “Strong” means able to do great things.
2. One becomes “strong” the more one cares about doing great things.
3. Love means caring about others even more than yourself. Therefore,
4. Caring only about yourself inspires less caring than love.
5. Therefore, Love makes one stronger than Selfishness does.
I thought of the amazing things our Body is able to accomplish because each member, sustained and protected by the others, is free to wholly concentrate on the skill God gave only him. If even a few of our members were lost, their irreplaceable skills would seriously weaken, not strengthen, our Body. What is Beelzebub thinking?
God just says to keep watching and praying, because events will unfold very rapidly which will answer our questions. I saw a strange expression on God’s face, too, that I had never seen.
VerseScout: Matthew 18:10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
VerseScout Relevance Report: although no man can see God’s face, and live, Exodus 33:20, angels can.
There is something moving on His face that reflects rays eerily. We are learning a new word for what God is doing. It is called “crying”.
VerseScout: John 11:35 Jesus wept.
Ezekiel 9:4 And the LORD said unto him, …set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations…5 And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: 6 …but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; ….
Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, [complete, mature] even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
VerseScout Relevance Report: Shed tears for the lost appears to be an entrance requirement for Heaven. It is definitely a Godly quality – a mark of spiritual maturity. Jesus said to the extent we are spiritually mature, we share the qualities of God. God must, therefore, shed tears over our sins. John 11:35 confirms God’s capacity for crying.
If the purpose of Beelzebub’s “war” was not to actually defeat God, was it to persuade as many of our brothers as he could to join him in defeat? We are amazed that even one, let alone so many, would choose to “succeed” in such pathetic failure.
And now a new thing has occurred. Beelzebub, along with all who joined him and who were, of course, defeated with him, are producing loud, awful sounds with their throats. It is absolutely the worst singing I have ever heard.
I’m going to go over and ask what’s gotten into them.
BT3 – “Hi, Smokey! I have to ask about your singing. I know you know how to sing in tune, and sing beautifully. But I have never heard anything so off-key as now. It doesn’t express your joy at all. Is it some new style?”
By the time my question was out, several of Smokey’s friends had surrounded us. Their faces showed muscle contortions like I had seen before on Beelzebub, although less extreme. But with another difference that suggested to my mind the message “you are not welcome!”
What was wrong with my brain, I wondered, that it would suggest such a possibility, so foreign to the joy of fellowship which is the perpetual experience of every angel?
Stinky spoke. “We have no joy.”
You could have knocked me over with a Thunder Bomb. How could such a thing be possible? What else is there to feel?
“Oh, I get it”, I laughed. “You’re kidding. You were always a great kidder, Stinky. But this time you’ve outdone yourself! You sure had me going there for a bit!”
“No one is kidding” a voice said.
I looked around at the growing sea of faces, all staring at me, all bearing those contortions processed by my reeling brain as “Leave us!”
“That is not possible” I offered as a question disguised as a declaration.
Smokey said “Not only have we no joy, we feel the opposite. Get used to this new word, because if we have anything to do with it, it is coming your way: ‘pain’. Another great new word: ‘suffering’.”
Though I had never heard such words, the sound of them made me shudder. In fact, the words made me feel what my suffering friends felt.
“Our sounds do not express our joy, Bozo, because we have no joy. They express our pain and suffering. We do not call them ‘singing’. We call them ‘screaming’.”
I was cheered for an instant by being called ‘Bozo’, an allusion to happier times when we did a lot of clowning around together. Except that the title this time was awarded in a spirit quiet alien to happiness.
“But what could possibly account for such a terrible phenomenon as ‘pain’?” I asked. “What can possibly cause ‘suffering’?”
The contortions morphed into what my brain processed as another new thing to feel: disgust. A slow, grinding voice answered, “As if you didn’t know, it is caused by all this fire that we are in.”
I doubled over, laughing. Then I knew they were pulling my leg! And what a good one this had been!
Thick dark smoke came out of their ears, becoming so thick I could see no one. Uncertain whether they were even still there, I lifted off and returned home.
VerseScout: Luke 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son,… 26 … between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; …
VerseScout Relevance Report: The impassable barrier does not prevent clear communication. It does not prevent kindness – such as Abraham calling the man “son”. It does not prevent instruction, or truth.
But it does prevent any interference with the infliction, upon those in Hell, of what they had done to others.
In the rest of Abraham’s answer, he reminds the formerly rich man that what he is experiencing now is exactly what Lazarus had suffered before.
BT4 – They’ve been making those terrible sounds too long for it to be a joke. My friend Joy observed, “Even if their claims began as a joke, the tension of their throats, proved by the strained tone of their singing, surely causes such stress to their vocal chords as to be a source of pain by itself.”
We flew before God to ask for understanding, but we couldn’t catch God’s eye. It was as if the strange substance in God’s eyes was obstructing His peripheral vision. That is impossible, of course, since God sees everywhere without the requirement of peripheral vision, or of eyes. But God likes to teach us with images.
God certainly knew we were before Him, and knew what we wanted. And yet God’s appearance was that of preoccupation with walking among our rebellious brothers, and watching them while continuing to “cry”. I wondered if God’s appearance of preoccupation, to the point of inattention to us, was possibly His actual answer to our question. Possibly He was modeling a more appropriate response from ourselves. But we didn’t understand.
We glanced over at God’s workshop, where He was working on future solutions. The substance flowing out of His eyes – “tears”, we now call them – are being collected there, into a ball of the substance hovering above God’s workbench. What is God making? Will it, whatever it is, restore our fallen brothers?
We walked away, disturbed, yet intrigued.
VerseScout: ..If any man worship the beast… 10 The same…shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
John 19:34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
Ecclesiastes 1:18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
VerseScout Relevance Report: Contrary to the popular theology that Hell will be separation from God, Hell’s occupants are “in the presence of the Lamb”. Together with Ezekiel 9:4-6, the passages indicate sin will grieve God in Eternity. This is confirmed by the fact that grief is a partner with wisdom.
Apparently it was God’s grief for our sins, more than the physical torments, that killed Jesus on the Cross. That is proved by the blood mixed with water from the soldier’s spear which John was able to observe even from a distance, (John 19:34), according to “The Physical Cause of the Death of Christ”, written in 1871 by Dr. W. Stroud (available as a free ebook online).
My good friend Joy asked, “A few of us are forming an expedition to try to determine what happened, and what we can do. We need a good scribe to record our observations, and the close friendship you used to have with Beelzebub is legendary. Maybe he will talk to you. There may come a time when that contact will become invaluable. Want to come along?”
Instantly I was with the expedition, led by Brainy.
[Editor’s note: This occurred before Time, so everything happened instantly. Also, everything took forever.]
Slimey was the first we met upon our descent. I was glad to see him. He was my co-star in one of our first movies. He sang lead in two of our hit songs. How I long for a reprise! Except that now he is so far out of tune!
“Slimey, old friend! What a happy surprise to see you again!”
“Same to you, Comunicius! Say, isn’t this a lot of weather we’re having?”
“There certainly is a lot of it”, I agreed.
“More than ever. This may be a record”, he pointed out.
Although Slimey was way out of tune, at least he didn’t have any of the contortions on his face I had seen with Smokey and his friends. But there was something subtle around his eyes. So subtle that I could not be sure of it. Something suggesting a loose connection between his thoughts and his words.
“I see you brought the neighborhood”, he said. “Are you on an expedition?”
Joy answered. “Yes. We have heard claims that Beelzebub’s followers are experiencing something called ‘pain’. We have come to try to understand and find a way to help. It was said that the cause of pain is fire. Crazy, huh?”
Slimey laughed as if delighted with the opportunity to be of service, but it was a strange laugh. “What good fortune that you have met me now!” Fortune? Our steps are ordered by fortune, now, and not by God?
VerseScout: Psalms 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.
“I see you are headed that way”, he said, pointing in the direction we were facing. “If you will just go this way,” he said, pointing in another direction, “it just so happens a delegation from Beelzebub is meeting there to prepare an appeal to Gabriel about our suffering. I know they will be glad for your feedback in preparing their petition.”
We thanked Slimey profusely for his advice, and headed off the second way. When we had gone far enough that Slimey was nearly out of sight, I turned back to him to smile and wave. Slimey was still smiling, but it was a very different smile. I hadn’t seen such a smile since the beginning of the firefight.
Just then my ears imploded and I was knocked off my feet with the rest of our party. My brain turned off.
When it was on again, I realized we had been hit with a Thunder Bomb.
We had been led right into a trap. We heard laughter in the distance: hard, strained, joyless laughter. And words, such as “Does that help you understand ‘pain’?”
Yes, it did. Only briefly, of course, since healing begins instantly. But then a very great pain began, which would not heal. The pain of realization that Slimey, and his friends, had done things I never imagined any angel could ever do.
They wanted to hurt us. What could possibly motivate a soul to hurt another? Suddenly I understood the “crying” we had seen in God. We cried, loudly. The substance we had seen coming from God’s eyes, we felt stinging our own.
Since it came from the feeling of our hearts being, as it were, torn, we called it “tears”.
Hurting us had made them happy, though a sad kind of “happy”. No happiness we ever wanted: a dark, terrifying happiness, but which they thought distracted them from their “pain”.
What could possibly motivate a soul to find pleasure in another’s pain?
None of the wisdom God had given me, nor any experience of any angel recorded in any of my diaries, had prepared me to understand such a tragic mystery.
Slimey had intentionally deceived us. I had never even heard of the word “deceive” before, but it entered my mind just as I needed a word to describe this entirely new experience. Slimey “lied”. How the rules for relationships have changed!
Before the Fall it never occurred to anyone to deliberately say something that is not true. How can anyone want to be out of touch with reality? And since God has created us to depend on each other, as well as upon God directly, for understanding of reality, how is it possible to deceive another without it leading to deception of one’s self?
VerseScout: 1 Corinthians 12:14 For the body itself is not made up of only one part, but of many parts….17 If the whole body were just an eye, how could it hear? ….26 If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; …27 All of you are Christ’s body, and each one is a part of it. [GNB]
VerseScout Relevance Report: A lie, told by one soul to deceive another, is as harmful to the Body into which God wants to unite us as a finger which could send signals to the brain to deceive the brain about what the finger is feeling. It misdirects the brain, and thereby the whole body, towards actions which may unintentionally destroy even the finger.
Slimey wasn’t “ashamed”. He had no sense of having done something to be regretted.
To the contrary, he seemed very pleased that his deception had succeeded. His contorted face expressed the idea that he actually considered his successful deception of us a proof of his intelligence.
The Fallen now surrounding him praised it as evidence of Slimey’s greatness! They were making speeches honoring his deed and pledging to follow him in future plots!
Will we ever understand such amazing logic? Are they possible to understand?
The laughter around us was peppered with “Lookit those little crybabies! One Thunder Bomb and they turn into waterfalls!”
Of course, by then we were completely healed, physically; our crying was for the suffering they were causing themselves. They figured that out, eventually, when our wailing increased as our understanding of them increased, rather than decreasing as we were physically healed.
We figured out that they figured that out, because their taunts shifted from laughter at us crying for ourselves, to “angry” complaints that we cried for them. (What horrible new words we were learning! “Angry”! “Complaints”! “Horrible”!)
They “growled”, “They are judging us!”
“Judging, judging, judging!”
This complaint puzzles me. First, because I can’t be sure what we are doing which is described by this word, and second, because if it is any of the things I would guess, I don’t know how it could draw a complaint.
Slimey’s companions use the word as if their complaint is that we think, and that we care.
We think about their suffering. We try to understand it. We try to see if there is anything they are doing that is causing it, so we can help stop it.
And we care. We care that they suffer. We don’t want them to suffer.
“Judging”, they call this.
But they want us to know how much they suffer!
They want us to be troubled by how much they suffer!
So why do they hate us for doing what they want us to do? Why do they call it “judging”?
I think what we are doing “wrong” is that we are not blaming God.
They want us to understand how much their pain is God’s fault. They don’t want any help from us stopping it, if any part of our help is to show them how they can end it by changing something they think or that they do, like resist God.
They have a word for that: “Criticizing, criticizing, criticizing! You aren’t so perfect yourself, that you can come and tell me my faults!”
Well, no, we aren’t perfect, which is exactly why we normally welcome each other’s help correcting our failures to achieve what we want.
VerseScout: Proverbs 9:8 Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.
Proverbs 15:10 Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.
“Why don’t you accept us as we are?”
“You are full of ‘hate’.”
“You are ‘intolerant’.”
“Hate, hate, hate.”
“We have a right to believe whatever we want.”
When we tried to show them evidence that the terrible things they believe are not true, they answered, “When truth isn’t what we choose to believe, then evidence is irrelevant. Duh!”
Joy struggled to grasp what he now described, as we recapped our expedition: “Not only do they complain about us, but also about God! They tell us ‘If God is a god of Love, why is He making us suffer?’ I can’t imagine which of God’s loving actions they are blaming for their suffering!”
I joined in, “Nor can I! God is pouring out more love upon them than all our love put together!”
But the facts could not be denied.
Chapter 2: Friendly Fire Why do God’s critics react to evidence, facts, and reason as if they were being tortured by Hell fire? What does Hebrews 12 mean by saying “our God is a consuming fire”? God’s angels search for answers.