Sunday Morning Musings: Recently I heard the story of the old minister who said to his younger associate that he had been thinking a lot about the “hereafter”. When pushed to explain himself more the older minister said to his colleague that whenever he entered a room he would usually have to ask himself: What did I come in here after? But it is the former “hereafter” that I wish to muse today.
There was a time, and for some it still is, the goal of Christian faith was a safe arrival in the hereafter. To be saved meant that one had secured a place with the Almighty. One’s halo and wings were just waiting for the end of our earthly journey and they would be awarded. That’s right; I am talking about “heaven”. At one time, our earthly life really didn’t mean much. What mattered was achieving the ultimate goal – according to the Apostle’s Creed – being judged worthy by Jesus who “will come to judge the living and the dead”. Of course, it doesn’t offer any specifics on which we shall be judged, nor what will happen should we be judged as “inappropriate”.
Before I muse any further, let me assured you that I do believe in “heaven and hell”, just with certain caveats. Firstly, heaven (and hell) is not a physical place. Such an idea may have had some resonance with the idea of a three-level world (heaven above, hell below with us living here in the middle). In the early days of the race to space a Russian cosmonaut radioed from “outer-space” that he did not see “God” or any semblance of heaven. Although, volcanoes do indicate that below the surface of this planet called “earth” is plenty hot.
I can only say again, that to speak of the “hereafter” is not spoken of a place, rather a state of being. Some have told me that “heaven and hell” are experienced by us in the here and now. There are times when we can experience such a positive feeling that we might describe it as “feeling like heaven”. As well, there are times when we can experience “hell on earth”. I am not about to deny such experiences. To be honest, I believe that we have all experienced both feelings at different times during our earthly lives. What I will say about the similarities of these experiences is whether or not we feel that presence of God (my word used to express a sense of something beyond myself). To feel a presence is a heavenly feeling. To feel totally alone feels like hell.
But all this talk doesn’t say much about the “hereafter”. What happens after this earthly life is over – what happens when we die? I don’t believe that it is all over for us. Our physical bodies die, are buried, even cremated. Yet, we are more than our bodies. That which is called our “spirit” lives on in the “hereafter” but like the spirit in this life, space and time don’t come into the equation. Beyond that fact, I am sorry to say that I don’t have much to add. We become once again part of all that is, all that was, and all that ever shall be. Some will tell us that how we experienced life while we were alive will be enhanced after death. Goodness will become more goodness. I supposed the opposite must also be considered as holding true as well.
Does it matter how I live now? Of course it does. Will how I live now determine my life in the hereafter? I don’t know. But I am certain that as God is with me now, God will always be part of my life, not only here but hereafter too.