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    Idiot’s Guide to Heaven and Hell

    October 13, 2009

    As Anna and I snuggled in for a recent “Bible time” together, we read the passage in Matthew 22 in which Jesus told the Sadducees that there would be no marriage in Heaven.

    “No marriage in Heaven?” my almost-thirteen-year-old gasped, then sat beside me gaping in disbelief. I could read her mind. Already looking forward to the dating years, I’ll bet she was praying right then and there that Jesus wouldn’t come back for a very long time.

    Sensing her disappointment, I explained that most of us are mistaken about Heaven. We picture ourselves strumming harps as we float along on fluffy clouds in and out of private mansions. That would get dull after a few thousand years. If Heaven is merely a pain-free, glorified extension of this present existence, I’m disappointed already.

    But this is what I told Anna: Heaven is a literal place, to be sure. There are untold pleasures to be enjoyed with all the five senses and more. But beyond that, Heaven is as much about “being” as it is “doing.” Since “the essence of life is relationship” (Victor Dodzweit), Heaven—or eternal life—is the ultimate experience in and expression of relationship. Complete transparency characterizes the community of Heaven. We will experience each other with an intimacy that far surpasses the physical intimacy lovers share on earth. Someone explained that in Heaven, when you meet a person for the first time, you see them from the inside out, as opposed to the earthly “working your way in”. You immediately see (sense, feel, know, realize) one’s true self (character, personality) the instant you meet him or her.

    And better still, you love and appreciate what you see! It’s as if the person who once rubbed you the wrong way has been completely emptied of every trace of annoyance, and the positive aspects of that personality have been condensed and magnified to make up the entire individual, so that we will understand each other as the unique person he or she was always meant to be. And we’ll have an eternity to “discover” people for the first time, and to enjoy them forever. It makes me giddy just thinking about it (I’ve already got coffee dates booked with CS Lewis and the apostle Paul).

    But that’s just the people part. We will fully experience God—the pure essence of love. People that have momentarily died, gone to Heaven and come back, all tell of an incredible feeling of being enveloped in a love that warmed them beyond what human language can express.

    Hell is the exact opposite. I define it as the absence of the presence of God. Here on earth, the worst infidels are still able to call on God, for He is here. Not so in Hell. It is a place of utter abandonment—a loneliness unlike any ever experienced on earth. Some people joke and say “at least I’ll be in good company in Hell—we’ll party!” That won’t be the case. Hell is a place where God respects one wishes and allows them the fullest experience of what they always wanted on earth. So those that lived for themselves will get just that—they will have their “selves” all to themselves. Randy Alcorn writes of an individual who found himself in Hell and soon heard a blood-curdling scream, thought to be a demon. He realized it was his own scream; the thing he loved too much to ever deny now turned on him to torment him for eternity. As will all those things some choose to hold on to—hate, fear, greed, envy, and so on. They are the only company one has in Hell. They become all-consuming giants now feeding on the ones who used to feed on them.

    Hell was intended for Satan and his angels. God never meant for any human to go there, and He went the distance in providing us with a way out. Ask Jesus about that.

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