Message boards on the internet are the online gathering rooms where people from everywhere can exchange ideas on any subject. The following exchange took place between this author and a woman on a Christian message board. We were discussing whether or not reincarnation exists as well as why anyone would end up in hell despite God’s will that not one of us should perish. Her edited part of the conversation is shown in bold and opens with her quoting Hebrews 9:27…
“It is appointed unto man ONCE to die." If we repeat the process (life) again and again, we'd die more than once. Sounds to me like we get ONE chance and that's it."
This is a case where it's vital to decide upon the very nature of what we are before we try to interpret what is being said. I believe we were created in our Father's image of pure spirit or consciousness. If we believe that we were created as humans first and some ethereal part of us survives after we die, then I can understand how you interpret Paul’s words as you do. But what if the reverse were true?
If we are eternal spiritual beings currently having a human experience, then the physical body does only die once. After that, we review what occurred in that life to learn the lessons offered on earth. Each human life is discreet and those bodies return to dust regardless of how many times our souls may reincarnate into another human body. If we believe we were first created as corporeal humans, then your interpretation that we only die once makes sense...but does “being created in God's image” mean we were first created as spiritual beings or humans? Does God actually have arms and legs? I'm guessing “no.”
"Is God fair, or isn't He? Does He respect my choice, even if I choose hell?"
If we raise a child who was particularly difficult and they angrily move away the moment they turned 18, when do we give up on such a child? When their temporary mortal body passes away? When the child makes a selfish choice once more than 70 times 7? Is God no longer interested in us as our loving parent after He is no longer “legally” responsible for us? Many good parents' guidance, support and concern carries on no matter what age their children reach, even after death.
This is a good analogy for asking when God would give up on any of His children. If God is the greatest and most loving parent we can imagine, then the answer would have to be; never. Our choices are always respected and He never interferes with them. Neither would God give up on our making the right choices at some point in the future no matter how many bad ones we've made in the past.
Why would we think God would insist on a time limit for achieving His will that not one of us should perish? Who does such a time limit serve? Certainly not God's. So with perfect parenting skills, perfect patience and endless opportunities to ultimately accept His loving ways as our own, how could any of us possibly fail forever?
“Sustaining a personal relationship with God 'freely loving Him and following His will' MUST also be 'free to hate or ignore Him'.”
I agree with you. However, the implied outcome that God is unable to achieve His will that not one soul should perish. That limiting belief denies God’s omniscience, omnipotence and unconditional love for His children. Do we think God incapable of saving all His children despite giving them the free will to choose against His loving ways? In my opinion, that shows very limited faith in our Father to believe He will not achieve everything He wants, including saving us all.
“When we use tools of reason we ask ourselves 'how can a perfectly good God allow certain kinds of evil' we naturally overlook 'it is better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil'.”
I believe a limited perception of God’s greatness is why some believe God must compromise to save any of His children. The challenge is to patiently and repeatedly demonstrate each of us how “accepting His loving ways as our own” actually achieves what we truly desire. If even the most hedonistic among us truly believed that unconditional love, infinite patience and perfect cooperation was the path to getting everything we could ever want, how long do we think it might take to live as Jesus suggested?
And so every life on earth is geared toward making us aware that choosing a loving solution at every opportunity is the only lasting path to happiness. We are indeed slow learners, but God (unlike humankind) is unconcerned with time. With eternity in front of us, what difference does it make in the amount of time it might take for each of us to freely accept His loving ways as our own? Any finite period of time (even billions of trillions of quadrillions of years) is virtually no time at all when compared to the rest of eternity.