“God never sends anyone to hell.” He only says, “Thy Will Be Done.” C.S. Lewis
50 ghosts board a Greyhound bus and leave the bleak country and toward a vacation paradise. Instead of finding pleasure in every stream or blade of grass, the ghosts feel like they are walking on glass. Shining figures seek to assist the ghosts but almost every one of them refuses eternal joy.
The scene is of course from C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. C.S.Lewis famously said, “God never sends anyone to hell. He only says, “Thy Will Be Done.”
In Jesus’ parable, He asks, “What kind of King throws out a wedding guest because he was wearing the wrong clothing? The answer? It’s the same kind of king that murders children (Mt. 2:16) or a King who allows himself to be used by his wife to kill the people’s prophet (Mt 14:3-11). Instead of loving His enemies, the king in Jesus’ story seems capricious and mean-spirited. It’s the kind of god created by those who have forgotten their wedding garments.
It’s the kind of god the ghosts on C.S. Lewis’ bus create so they have an excuse for their unbelief. Bishop Robert Barron writes of them, “I’ve always found atheists of all stripes helpful, both spiritually and theologically, precisely in the measure they clarify what the true God is not. They expose and implicitly undermine new forms of idolatry.”
Unlike this caricature, Isaiah describes the dinner party God throws for the whole world. Instead of lording it over His victims, like most conquering kings, God spreads a table before His enemies and invites them to dinner:
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples, a feast of rich foods, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear (Isa. 25:6).
As we swallow the best foods and wines, God swallows death. Glenn Miller writes: “The letters m-w-t (Hebrew, death) have the same Semitic root as the Canaanite name for the God of death and the underworld (Mot). In Canaanite mythology, Baal and Mot fight a battle to the end. El, the high God, must end the battle before all life is destroyed. In contrast, Mot is Yahweh’s finger food, a temple delicacy. And the images keep coming, for God swallows Death who stuffed all the sons and daughters of Adam into its waiting jaws.”
Interestingly, John the Revelator adapts the Isaiah passage including it in his concluding chapters: “They will hunger no more, thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the waters of life, and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.”
On that day it will be said: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked.”