Posts Tagged ‘heaven

04
Aug
09

Why Must We Go Through This?

A common complaint against God is that if He exists, why would he make us go through all the crap that occurs on Earth before welcoming us into His embrace? Sickness, suffering, woes, violence, and so many more nasties about in life. Sure, there are many good things, too, but no one really pays attention to those or thanks God for them when they can simply focus on the bad stuff and blame him.

OK, sorry…side rant for a moment there.

But there is a legitimate question in there. What is the purpose of being here, if our goal is to be there (i.e. Heaven) for eternity?

Well, first, I highly doubt our eternity is going to be spent lounging around the afterlife or doing nothing but bowing down in front of God all the time. Seems like we’d have something a bit more varied and productive to do than the same ole, same ole forever.

So that means we’ll likely have purpose. Responsibility. And, dare I say, power.

Remember, angels have power. A bunch of them waged war against Heaven. And yet they are servants to us, the children of God. They are, in the end, lesser than humans on the heirarchical scale. Therefore, it is safe to say that we will be potentially far more dangerous to creation and to Heaven than they ever were or ever will be.

Given that, I would kind of expect to be put through some paces. I would, in fact, expect that the afterlife is not simply a destination but a continuing journey and series of tests and opportunities for growth itself.

You don’t toss a set of keys to your kid the moment his or her feet can reach the pedals and say, “Take it for a ride.”

Likewise, I don’t think God is going to simply open the doors to paradise, and reveal deep secrets of creation itself, to just everyone.

This post is a bit of a ramble, I know, but I haven’t really coalesced these thoughts firmly. It’s more of a mental exercise I’m going through. But I do think I may be on to something with it.

24
Nov
08

The Eternal Question

eye_of_godWhen questioning the judgment, sanity and/or intelligence of Christians, the array of potential critics (atheists, agnostics and religious non-Christians) have several tried-and-true avenues of argument they can fall back on. Two of the of the better ones, of course, are to simply argue the silliness of the concept of an all-powerful “invisible man in the sky” or to argue that we as humans couldn’t possibly have enough grasp on reality to know the true path of the spiritual, since too many people disagree.

Not going to argue either of those today. Instead, I’m going to go for what I consider to be the second-runner up of all-time fallback arguments against Christianity:

If your God is so freaking kind and merciful and loving and wonderful, why did He do [insert controversial God-sanctioned activity documented in the Bible here], how could He be permit [insert current or past person of questionable moral character here] to live, and how could He allow [insert the most heinous, mind-rending scenario you are aware of or could imagine here] to occur?

Well, before I respond, I would like you to suspend your possible disbelief in an infinitely powerful, eternal being. Really. I mean, you were smart enough to come up with arguments against God or my particular model of God, so I know you can conceptualize an all-powerful entity. OK, cool. Got that  disbelief suspended? Great. We’ll get to that in a moment, right after I ask you a counter-question to the one above.

If you were told that you were about to be subjected to the most intense agony the human mind could experience without shattering entirely, that said pain would last approximately one second, and you would receive several billion dollars for going through the process, what would you do?

Accept the deal, of course. And if you don’t, you’re an idiot.

Which brings me to my point. God is dealing in eternity. Infinity. All the time in the universe and then some.

As horrible as anything that has happened or will happen might be, it is a tiny moment in time compared to eternity. So tiny as to be even less significant than that one second of unbelievable agony I mentioned. God is operating on a framework wherein your end reward is unending and better than anything you can imagine. In this context, there is no atrocity, no event and no disaster that could even come close to denting that. No suffering that Earth, people and Satan subjects us to compares to what God offers us.

Yeah, I know. A lot of you are going to say, “But Deac, by your own admissions in this blog, not everyone is getting that nice reward at the end. So they get shit on Earth and then eternally shittier shit after that. Yay for them, huh?”

Indeed, I believe in Hell and I believe in damnation. I also believe that the only people who are going to get that bitter end are going to be the hardheaded morons who will refuse to acknowledge their sin and their failure to be what they should have been in terms of following God’s word. The damned will be the people who didn’t get it on Earth, refuse to get the message in Hell, and decide that God is a flipping dipshit that they don’t want to spend eternity with anyway because as far as they’re concerned, they didn’t do anything wrong. Those folks get whatever crap they had on Earth, whatever crap they got in Hell, and will move on the Lake of Fire when God wraps up affairs here on this planet and have eternal separation from the good stuff. And frankly they’ll deserve it for being such egocentric self-satisfied remorseless morons, and yes, there will be plenty of souls who take that route, in my opinion.

I don’t believe that God relishes any of our suffering. I think it pains Him greatly. But you know, it pains me to deny my kids something they really want or to punish them in some way. But I do those things because in the end, I’m trying to do the right things for them to grow, and I know that compared to the spans of their lives, God willing that they live long ones, whatever pain they experienced will be a minor thing compared to what they take with them into their maturity.

09
Apr
08

The party that never ends?

“Why go for Jesus? All the fun people will be in Hell.”

That’s not a verbatim punchline as far as I know, but it’s the jist of a lot of stand-up jokes about the relative value of living for God in this life vs. living for oneself. And it’s funny, I’ll grant you. Any decent comedian can get at least a chuckle from me with a joke like that. Really, I do have a frickin’ sense of humor, folks, despite being a born-again Christian. Lewis Black, George Carlin and everyone in the Original Kings of Comedy tour rank really big in my comedy pantheon.

And you know what, I might even agree with the joke. A lot of the “fun” people probably are in Hell, and they might very well be having the time of their afterlives right now.

It’s a popular notion that Hell is all about torment and gruesome punishments but let’s face it, the Bible makes analogies about Hell; it uses imagery. Nowhere does anyone, to the best of my knowledge, really give a detailed description of what Hell is and what goes on there. Dante had some fun playing around with the concept in The Divine Comedy, and the Sandman series of mature comics (a literary classic in its own right) also had some interesting opinions on what Hell is and why people really end up there, particularly in the “Season of Mists” story arc.

I don’t necessarily believe Hell is about tormenting folks directly. I think Hell is about making the wrong choice for eternity and putting your heart and soul into bodily pleasures rather than earnestly desiring something better. I think it’s entirely possible Satan has made Hell a very fun place for a lot of lost souls. Party central. I imagine he didn’t make many (if any) rules for people to follow. Which probably also means people probably abuse each other in the name of pleasure, too, but that’s a whole other story. You can probably get as much food, drink, drugs and sex as you could possibly want. And you’re already dead, so nothing to worry about, right? Pleasure without judgment or consequences. Every man and woman can reach for all the pleasures they couldn’t get in life and more. Fun stuff.

Until you finally exhaust the limits of carnal pleasures and realize how empty the choice really was. When you finally notice that you had a soul with so much spiritual potential and decided to ignore that. That’s the point at which you come to the knowledge that you utterly spurned Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit, and went for the base and limited pleasures. How much pleasure is endless partying going to be after a few dozen millenia? I doubt that Satan is setting out any meaningful pursuits. I’ll bet he’s setting out a very attractive buffet of nothing but carnal pleasures.

But you know what? God ain’t giving us harp lessons in Heaven, people. I don’t know what he’s giving us, but I know it’s going to be fantastic, and it is only a soul that seeks him and that admits its failings and sins and desires for something so much better that will be admitted to Heaven and equipped to do those fantastic things. In the comment section of one my recent posts, I mused a bit on what the afterlife might hold. Just to give you a sense of the huge things that could possibly be in store, I’ll share it again with you here (it’s a bit longish…if you want to skip the preamble and set-up, you can skip to the last paragraph of my ramblings):

Let’s imagine that you are a being who has created a universe. You have created servants to be part of your comings and goings through the cosmos (those would be the angels) but what you want is to populate the universe with beings who are not simply spiritual creatures who SERVE you but beings in your own image (spiritually) who can LOVE you. Freely. And thus bring you from being a singular being to the head of a family.

So, you decide to start small because, after all, you’re dealing in eternity here, and if you do anything fast, you’re going to have a lot of time to kill. You create beings (or modify beings) on one insignificant rock in the universe and give them that spiritual spark that mirrors your own spiritual blaze. You give them free will so that they can choose to be part of your family or reject you and be part of Satan’s. Your first two beings out of the starting gate, not completely unexpectedly, take the seemingly more attractive path of disobedience, and mar their spiritual natures in such a way that they essentially become dead to you.

But you still have love for them, and so you work within the tainted and fouled pool they have created to bring forth, thousand, tens of thousands or millions of years later, a being who embodies your spiritual nature but is, unlike you, in physical form and can bridge the gap between you and your lost children, thus creating a way for the family to begin forming up again.

Of course, this is still a huge work in progress, because the system you have set up is about faith and spiritual existence and sinless behavior. It’s your rules, still, and people are a long ways from internalizing those rules and, more important still, doing it because they WANT to and want to love you and not because you force them to. So humanity, even after the arrival of Jesus, continues to be a haphazard mix of the faithful and faithless and fence-sitters. But you know that as things progress, you will get a certain critical mass of those who choose your path.

Now, why choose one planet? Why choose a certain group (the Hebrews) to start fixing the mess humans made? Why choose one savior? Because again, you’re dealing in eternity, and there’s no rush. In fact, to do things in a rushed fashion is simply to create the end YOU want without getting any satisfaction (or us getting any growth) from the process.

So, let’s fast-forward to the end times, whenever they come. The situation on earth reaches the tipping point you’ve been working toward, when you finally bring everyone who’s willing into the family fold and finally settle the nonsense with Satan and the people who even after spending time disconnected from you after death and aware that they are spiritually dead, still don’t want to be connected to you. Now you have a new heaven and a new earth…you have sons and daughters who have shucked off their mortal coils and want to be with you as family and not created servants like the angels are. There is still a universe out there. Untold numbers of planets and a spiritual family that finally gets what you’re about (or mostly does). If you started things rolling on earth but planted the seeds for life in millions of other worlds as well, now you have young races coming up to whom you and your children can go, and build up THEIR spiritual natures in a similar manner. Perhaps, with your family having your spark but not your omni-everything power, your new sons and daughters maybe even create worlds of their own or small universes or whatever else. In other words, there is plenty of work and plenty to do, even with eternity staring you and your children in the spiritual face.

So, there may not be any fires to sear your eternal flesh or pitchforks to prod you in the ass if you go to Hell. But what’s going to happen when it all ends and Hell is cast into the Lake of Fire and you’ve still decided that you don’t want to give up on that big party Satan’s been throwing? Now you’ve earned yourself eternal separation from God and everyone else in Heaven. I suspect that once the baser pleasures have been exhausted, eternity is going to start looking pretty awful.

That’s just a theory. But it’s often conjectured that we create and choose our own Hell. And a lot of people are going to assume Heaven is all about bowing and scraping before God’s throne instead of realizing that God is a pretty big thinker. He has grander plans for us. Things we cannot imagine. But we have to want what He’s offering and reject what seems like so much more fun: sex, drugs and rock-and-roll for eternity.

05
Mar
08

Over the limit

cross01.jpgSo, what’s that magic number of sins that send you to Hell until judgment day? What number of sins, or what kinds, can rob you of your salvation once you accept Jesus as lord and savior?

This is a really divisive issue at times inside and outside the church (the worldwide body of Christ and actual brick-and-mortar worship places).

First, people outside the church structure, and people in very liberal churches, just don’t like the idea of sin and Hell. It’s just too icky. It makes God look mean. Of course, removing sin and Hell from the equation also renders Jesus’ atoning death on the cross entirely meaningless.

Simple fact (biblically speaking) is that it only takes one sin to put you on the road to Hell. We are born with the devil in us, so to speak. Working only toward our own interests is easy and often very satisfying. Serving others and obeying God doesn’t bring that instant gratification. Let’s face it, sin is crack cocaine for the soul.

Now, when you consider the multitude of sinful things, from little white lies where you have your spouse call in sick for you so you can play hooky from work to murdering your neighbors in a cold-blooded orgy of murderous glee, the average human can easily commit thousands of sins in a lifetime. That’s thousands of sins committed by a really, really nice person, by the way. If you’re average…or better yet, a complete asshole…you can bring that up into the tens of thousands and more quite easily.

This is why it was such a big deal that Jesus took on himself every sin ever committed and every sin that would ever be committed in the future. He bore an amazing amount of really bad juju, folks. And in so doing, he had to allow himself to be separated spiritually from God for a time. A guy who had been in touch with his heavenly father every day of his life, cut off until he rose again from the dead. The physical suffering he endured during crucifixion was unbelievable already, and if you ever read about what crucified people went through before death, you would have to be insensitive to the point of serial killer psychosis not to shed at least some internal tears for Jesus and anyone else who suffered that form of execution. And then you add the spiritual factor, and you get some sense of why God wants people to acknowledge His son’s sacrifice and truly accept Jesus in order to benefit from his atoning death on our behalf.

So, that alone is a reason why everyone should seriously look into Jesus, and learn about why he makes sense not just spiritually (how many other religions try to restore a connection between God and humans and provide a savior for us) but historically as well (I highly recommend The Case for Christ, written by a former atheist, Lee Strobel, as a starting point on the logical reasons for believing in Jesus as the son of God). You may decide it still doesn’t make sense, but you have to give serious consideration to Jesus for your own sake. If you reject him after a real and sincere search for truth, I’ll respect your decision, even as I fear for your soul.

Now, how about losing your salvation? There are things in the Bible about how the branches can still be cut away from the olive tree and how certain sinners cannot inherit the kingdom of God and so on. So, a lot of Christians argue that being born again through faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t necessarily get you off the hook. You have to reject sin and live like Christ.

Bullshit.

If God made nothing else clear through all those commandments and convenants over the centuries, it was that humans are inherently disobedient, ever since screwing up in the Garden of Eden (thanks so very fucking much, Adam). To make Jesus’ protection over our souls contingent upon our behavior after accepting him is ridiculous. The presence of the Holy Spirit in us is a spiritual thing, and it can moderate and guide us in our earthly activities, but we still live in human bodies that really like sin, be it physical or otherwise. Temptation occurs, and the world presses in on us, and sinning in a multitude of ways is still easy and, frankly, unavoidable. You improve, but you don’t become perfect.

The problem with saying there are certain sins, or a certain number of them, that can cost you your salvation make no sense. Now, saying that failure to accept Jesus and be accountable for your mistakes before everything is tossed into the Lake of Fire is pretty clear-cut. On the other hand, saying you are saved unless you commit too many new sins is hazy as can be. How could you ever know when you crossed the line? How could you know when you are over the limit? That places Christians into more bondage, more confusion, more doubt and more fear than before they accepted Jesus. Being born again is supposed to free us from bondage and fear and the love of sin so that we can do God’s work.

That doesn’t mean that someone who claims to be born again and commits all sorts of nastiness is necessarily born again. But that’s for that person to come to grips with. Someone who kills for the mob for a living, for example, and continues to do so after claiming to have accepted Jesus is someone whose spiritual sincerity I doubt. But that’s between that person and God and Jesus. He or she really needs to look inside and reevaluate but, for all I know, maybe that person is truly born again. It’s not my place to judge, even though an awful lot of people seem to like to set themselves up as God’s earthly judges.

The idea that you might not inherit the kingdom of God for certain sinful behavior, even after being born again refers not to losing your salvation but to the fact that depending on how well you do avoiding sin and sharing the Gospel, you will have varying rewards in Heaven. The idea of differing rewards for the really, really faithful is established in the Bible. But when you get down to it, I’d rather live in the “slums” of Heaven (if one can even say there is such a thing) than have 10 earthly homes to rival what Bill Gates, Donald Trump and any major sheik can boast.

(Image by Joshua Miller, from ebibleteacher.com)




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

_________

Jeff Bouley

To find out more about me professionally, click here. To find out more about me generally, click here.

_________

E-Mail

You can reach Deacon Blue/Jeff Bouley at deaconbluemail@gmail.com.

_________

LinkedIn

For my public profile, click here.

_________

Tales of the Whethermen

My superhero fiction blog, click here

_________

Raising the Goddess

My parenting blog, click here

Copyright Info and Images

For more about images used on this site, and copyrights regarding them, as well as usage/copyright information about my own writing as posted here, click here.

Deac Tweets

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 834 other followers

January 2022
M T W T F S S
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

%d bloggers like this: