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 (Q and A on the Basic Beliefs)
Chapter 5: Heaven and Hell
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Chapter 5: Heaven and Hell

5.1 Heaven is only wishful thinking and human invention. There is no scientific evidence for heaven.

·         Not everything can be proved with methods known to science today. For example, can you show someone your love with scientific evidence? Since our scientific knowledge is limited, we cannot use it as the ultimate authority.

·         Is there any scientific evidence that proves the assumption that whatever cannot be proven by science does not exist? If even this assumption cannot be proven by science, why do you believe it?

·         To find out whether heaven is real, we need to find out whether the Bible and Jesus are true because they both teach us about heaven. If the Bible is indeed God’s word (chap. 4) and if Jesus is indeed Lord and Savior (chap. 3), then heaven must be real.

·         We know that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead because he answers our prayers and pours out his Holy Spirit as he has promised (Question 3.3). Since we know that Christ has risen and gone to heaven, we know that heaven is real.

·         The argument that heaven does not exist because we want it so much is fallacious. If this reasoning is true, it could work the other way, too (i.e. because you don’t want heaven to exist, heaven must be real because your wishful thinking has to be false). To refute an idea, we should provide solid evidence instead of simply calling it wishful thinking.

5.2 Heaven is such a remote idea. Why talk about something so far from reality when there are enough things in this life to worry about?

·         Our life on earth is not detached from our eternal destiny. Our earthly tasks reflect what we believe to be our ultimate goal. If you set your goal on something false, you will waste your entire life in meaningless pursuits. That is why we must find out whether there is heaven. If heaven is real, then we have to orient our daily lives to this goal.

·         The belief in heaven actually makes a direct positive impact in this life. A believer who looks forward to heaven brings blessings to others because they obey God’s command to love others as themselves. While God’s promises may pertain to the life to come, God’s commandments are for this life, not the afterlife. Our belief in heaven does not detract from our present responsibilities. On the contrary, it motivates us to make a difference on earth.

5.3 Heaven is too “spiritual” and boring. How can you be happy there if you do nothing but worship all day?

·         “Boredom” is simply another label for the spiritual emptiness in human beings as a result of alienation from God. When we go to heaven, we will not be in our present earthly bodies. The spiritual bodies we will have will be marvelously different. We cannot project our fleshly limitations unto the glorious spiritual state in heaven. The joy of being with the Lord in heaven is “far better” than anything we can experience on earth (Phil ). It is no wonder that Peter, who had but a glimpse of the Christ in glory during Jesus’ transfiguration, desired to remain on the mountain (Mt 17:1-4).

·         We may think that without earthly pleasures, heaven will be dull. But what our flesh enjoys on earth will seem childish when we are in our spiritual bodies in heaven. As adults, we don’t even think about the toys we “couldn’t live without” when we were children. Likewise, when we are in heaven, we will “put away childish things” (1Cor 13:9-12). The perfect eternal joy will replace the short-lived earthly joys.

·         As believers who have “tasted the heavenly gift” and “become partakers of the Holy Spirit” (Heb 6:4), we know from our personal experience that the joy of spiritual communion with the Lord far surpasses any earthly pleasure. It is no wonder that Paul would rather choose to be with Christ. Even though we have not fully experienced the joy of heaven, our foretaste of God’s immense love through the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5; 2Cor -22) tells us that heaven is anything but boring.

5.4 Hell is something that people made up to make kids behave.

·         The arguments for the existence of hell are similar in nature to the arguments for the existence of heaven. To test whether hell exists, we need to examine whether our sources of information—the Bible and Jesus Christ—are trustworthy (Question 5.1).

5.5 How can God, who is love, send anyone to hell to suffer eternally? If he loves every human being, he should allow everyone to go to heaven without any condition.

·         God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek ). Like the prodigal son’s father, he wants everyone to turn from evil and live (Lk 15:11-24; Ezek 18:31,32; 33:11). Out of his love, he even gave his own son to us so that we may have eternal life (Jn ,17).

·         While God offers everyone love and forgiveness, he does not force his love on those who do not want it. Because he loves us, he wants us to be free. We are given free choice to accept or deny God’s love. God does allow everyone to go to heaven, but not everyone chooses heaven. If a person chooses to sin and refuses to repent, he chooses to reject God’s love. By rejecting God’s love, he chooses hell because hell in essence is the absence of God’s love. There is no other choice, since the only place where God’s love does not exist is hell.

5.6 Is anyone really so evil as to deserve the eternal punishment of hell? Can God not forgive those who don’t believe in him?

·         God does not intend to send anyone to hell. Instead, he “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). We should not think of hell as God’s vengeful punishment. Hell is a choice. People choose hell by rejecting the grace of God. When we sin, we choose to be separated from God, and this separation is exactly what hell is—eternal separation from God, his love, and his joy. Our very action of sinning is its own punishment.

·         When addressing the question of whether anyone deserves hell, Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli explains, “Hell’s punishment fits sin’s crime because sin is divorce from God. The punishment fits the crime because the punishment is the crime. Saying no to God means no God. The point is really very simple. Those who object to hell’s over-severity do not see what sin really is. They probably look at sin externally, sociologically, legalistically, as ‘behaving badly.’ They fail to see the real horror of sin and the real greatness and goodness and joy of the God who is refused in every sin. We all fail to appreciate this. Who of us fully appreciates God’s beauty? The corollary immediately follows: who of us fully appreciates sin’s ugly horror?”1

·         If God makes everyone go to heaven, including those who do not want God or to be forgiven by him, then human beings have no free choice. God does not force anyone to be in heaven, although his grace of forgiveness is available to all. We need to make the choice to accept this grace.

5.7 If God knew that some would go to hell, why did he still allow them to be born into the world? He could have stopped them from even being conceived.

·         If God allows only those who choose heaven to be born, he is taking away free will because those who would choose to sin are not even given the freedom to live, not to mention the freedom to choose.

5.8 Hell is a means by which God forces people to believe in him. Such a threat robs people of their freedom of choice. People should be given the choice to reject God without fearing the fires of hell.

·         Hell is not a scare tactic that God uses to pressure people into believing in him. God did not invent hell to scare us. Hell is simply reality. If anyone does not want to be with God, that’s what he will get—separation from God. There is no other alternative. Seeing the reality of hell for what it is doesn’t rob us of the freedom of choice because we can still choose to reject God. On the contrary, it helps us make an informed decision. Out of his love for us, God wants us to see the dreadful nature of sin and come to Christ for forgiveness.

Notes

1.        Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994) 300.

 

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