Heaven and Hell

Some of what we think about heaven and hell comes from the Bible, but more than a little comes from popular culture. I never saw in the Bible where Satan has horns, a red union suit or a pitchfork. And where do we get the halos and pearly gates?

Yes … there are references to houses with rooms, different levels of heaven and some sense that the good things that we do here will get rewarded there. Likewise, hell is presented as an unpleasant place with fire and other sorts of agony and punishment, and some of our misdeeds might get punished there.

On a related subject, I have a problem with theologies that allocate all sorts of powers to Satan. Satan is the great deceiver. Wouldn’t the greatest deception of all be that Satan has all sorts of power.

If I have a problem with this heaven and hell business is that we have to talk about it using human language. Languages have always been finite and highly corruptible. Even two people hearing the same words can take them very differently. Each interpretation is quite dependent on the internal agenda of the hearer. Jesus didn’t really spend much time talking about heaven or hell, but even if he had, would his words have given us an adequate description of two ‘places’ that are essentially beyond description?

So let me put forward descriptions, rooted in scripture, that make some sense to me:

Heaven is that place where a person might go and be drawn fully and completely into the presence of God.

Hell is that place a person might go and realize fully and completely what it is like to experience the absence of God.

Just a thought … DonC


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