Heaven and Hell

Sunday Morning Musings:  My apologies for missing last Sunday, I was away on holidays and was just too lazy to write anything.  But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about things that might make for interesting topics.  Yet, it also proves that there is a huge difference between thinking about something and actually doing it.  In some ways I guess it proves the old adage that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

Now as I thought about this adage I also started to reflect on “hell” and its seeming opposite,” heaven”.  In earlier times (and even for some today) heaven and hell were/are quite literal places or destinations after this life.  If I am good (and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour – I am Christian or am I?) then by the grace of God I will be rewarded with a home in heaven.  Should I choose to be bad and not make such a confession before death, there is no choice for God but to punish me eternally.  Quite literally then I will either spend eternity in heaven or hell.

When it was believed that the earth was flat and the universe three dimensional, heaven was above and hell was below.  Above were clouds and angels and a great place to spend the rest of time.  Below existed as a fiery dwelling place where hard work continued (shovelling coal?).  Of course, this life was lived here on earth (here in the middle of the two) until we died.  In the middle of the last century as the Soviets and the Americans raced into space one of the first cosmonauts upon entering outer space (the abode of heavenly creatures including God); he remarked how he encountered none such beings which confirmed the atheistic stance that God didn’t exist.

For me as a youngster at the time, what was confirmed was that we didn’t live in a three dimensional world, and the travel into space only confirmed that learning was far from over.  In the last seventy years we have heard about many changes in our understanding.  In the 1960’s there was a “god is dead” movement which threatened some and resulted in more stringent lines being drawn.  God was put in a box (or Book) and sadly is still there for some.  For me, and others, there was a freedom created.  I was encouraged to view God as something more that even words could truly capture the essence.  God was called “the Other”, or various titles that attempted to speak of something more than could not even fully explain God.  Earlier this century The United Church of Canada’s Song Faith cited God as “Holy Mystery and Wholly Love”.

As a result of changing views of God, my understanding of heaven and hell also required more thought from me.  I began to question even the sense of how I lived this life influencing how I might be received after death.  One of the main changes in my thinking (my theology) is I need to spend more time concerned with the life that I am living now.  That is not to say that I am not concerned with what is sometimes called the “afterlife”.  Rather, I have come to believe that how I live now is more important.  I like the idea that how we live now influences life after our death in that if we have a positive attitude and motivation toward life now, it will be amplified after death.

If I choose to live love and compassion today, I will continue to do so.  If I choose to “create hell” on earth for myself and those around me, why should I expect anything different in the time to come.  Some have said that heaven and hell are here on earth and we create them.

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