The Philippians 4:8 Test

Philippians 4:8

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." NIV

"Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies." The Message

The doctrine of eternal hell does not pass the test of "what is good" by the standards of God Himself. To think about, to actually meditate on, the fact that 90%+ of humanity will be tortured forever with no hope of reprieve will cause you to conclude that it is neither something good nor lovely. It is a mine-distorting horror full of ugly images, nightmarish visions and black hopelessness. It conjures up only fear and no reverence. It motivates with terror not love. It has no purpose, no redemptive qualities and therefore does not qualify as something true, right, pure, lovely or praiseworthy.

So what about the ugliness of the outworking of God's judgements we read about in the Old and New Testaments? The difference is that these are temporal judgments in the context of His mercy that He says will never end. The Scriptures never abandon us there, but usher in the restoration at every turn. Even the Old Testament shows us how mercy triumphs over judgment when the prophets drop their themes of resurrection throughout the Story as in Ezekiel 16 where Sodom's restoration is predicted or where Egypt and Assyria are named as redeemed AHEAD of Israel! Like Joseph we must let the goodness and love of God trump our thoughts about sin, evil and death:

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Gen. 50:20).

So while the consequences of sin, evil and judgment are not "lovely" God has given us a higher and truer thought still; that He will undo, remake, redeem and restore everything that has ever violated His standard of good, true and lovely in this world. The thought that is always "true" is that He is continually using evil for good and righting wrongs, ...not erasing hope. This is exercising Philippians 4:8.

(Thank you Gerry for this concept).