Are they real or just imaginary places? Is the idea of heaven and hell a bedtime story meant to scare us into a sense of moral duty? If a place called heaven and hell do not exist, what does that mean for the implications of our moral decisions or obligations? If there is life after death does it make sense that we all end up in the same place? If we do end up in the same place why be good at all, why not be completely full of self-aggrandizement; do whatever you please? Could it be that morality really has no ultimate relevancy if there is no life beyond the grave? It would seem like if there is nothing beyond the grave then morality is just what is socially fashionable at the time. Wow, could that really be plausible?
What can we know as believers in God about life beyond the grave? Fortunately for Christians the Bible offers a little knowledge about life beyond the grave and depending on what side you are on it can look pretty nice or pretty scary. Before we get there let’s look at some of the broader worldviews people have about life after death.
There are some people who believe if they are good people (however one measures that) and live this goodness out in their life they will automatically go to heaven (or some fanciful place) and actually think they will be with God (or not) even though they have really had nothing to do with God during their earthly existence. Then you will meet the person who doesn’t care, is just apathetic about it all, and you want to shake them and say “Man, you are about to die, snap out of it and find some truth in your worldview!” Then you will find people who don’t want to go to any place like heaven because they are bitter, frustrated, disenchanted, and probably angry because God intentionally created a world rife with such evil and suffering, so why be with Him?
If our moral obligations and duties are truly objective and binding across humanity (whether we agree on them or not is irrelevant), surely our moral decisions while on Earth matter in regards to where we spend the afterlife, if it exists of course. What would a scenario look like if our moral decisions were not rewarded or punished after our physical death? I mean what’s the point if all end up spending eternity together anyway? And there certainly is no point of aspiring to uphold moral duties and obligations if eternity or heaven don’t exist. Yet for the most part every one of us does uphold these things at some level? How is one to face this dilemma? Perhaps that is why many have said people need to invent the idea of God in order to function morally! I would say yes, we need God to function morally as God provides us an ultimate, objective standard of attributes like love, goodness, justice, mercy, etc. And as we have mentioned in the Justice post, God does reward our moral behavior when our time is done on earth.
So heaven and hell are two places which Christians hold as foundationally true because our Savior, Jesus, spoke about both of these places. Now heaven and hell may not be developed as much as we’d like from a Biblical perspective, but we get enough of an idea as to which one would seem most desirable to spend eternity.
In regard to heaven, what do we know?
More to come…