In a recent blog, I remarked that when one goes through all of Scripture, gathering onto one page the many verses pertaining to “Heaven” and “Hell“, and then compares them to each other — they paint an inconsistent, even incoherent, picture.
Have I got something against Hell? (Or Heaven, for that matter?)
Not at all. But I DO have something against mixing Mediterranean or European folk-lore in with biblical truth. As far as I’m concerned, learning that most of what people today believe about “Heaven” and “Hell” came from Dante‘s The Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost is a deal-breaker as far as my continuing to propagate these traditional misconceptions — no matter how defiantly people hold onto them, absurdly espousing their non-biblical depictions both of the Afterlife and of God Himself.
But it’s natural for “people with inquiring minds” to simply want to know what’s going to happen after people die in the flesh. Some are afraid of being conscious of the fires of Hell, some are afraid of being conscious of worms eating through their corpse, while some are afraid of losing consciousness altogether. Fear drives a multitude of people to persuade themselves that the Afterlife exists and is not fearful. Little do they know that, fundamentally, they may be correct — but never for the reasons they devise for themselves.
Not to get into it here, but the Bible’s stated purposes are not to prepare people for living in Eternity but to prepare people to live on earth — now. Not that Scripture doesn’t give certain “hints” and “whispers” about what happens to human beings after their physical death, but its primarily focus is shaping how we live and experience and righteously use our human lives here and now.
Yet the question remains, “If the Bible doesn’t give us an explicit picture of “things to come”, why not?
The answer is simple: in terms of God’s desires and purposes for us here and now, we don’t need to know or understand precisely what happens after the life of this flesh is over. Actually, since all God does is good, we can rest assured that if knowing details and specifics about life in Eternity had some significant value to human beings today, God would have told us.
One of the greatest barriers to people accepting this rather humble and inoffensive perspective is that many feel that information about what happens “later on” is crucial for evangelism. That is, if you can’t “warn people” about “the unquenchable fires of Hell”, they won’t be motivated to “repent” and “become Christians”. All I have to say to that is that I don’t expect this blog or anything else I ever write or say will change their dogma. Since the ideas about Heaven and Hell that they’ve chosen to champion aren’t found in the Bible, nothing less will persuade them either.
Still, the idea that people can be “scared into Heaven” is deeply embraced in countless churches everywhere. That doesn’t excuse the wrongness of that perspective, a wrongness that disregards that the power that God holds over humankind to bring them to repentance is not fear but blessing. Far from remembering what Paul wrote in “Romans”, many Christians have never even heard that “it’s the goodness of God that brings men to repentance”.
Bottom line: Why doesn’t the Bible clear up this cloud of “not-knowing” in respect to Heaven and Hell?
Because what matters is not tomorrow, nor the Day After Tomorrow, but NOW — how I choose to live Today in the Power of the Presence of Jesus Christ, sharing with others the transforming Power of His Love.
Emil & Shell Swift