C.S. Lewis once responded to the accusation that some Christians were so heavenly-minded that they were no earthly good, by noting that it was only when Christians were heavenly-minded that they were able to do any earthly good. The struggle wasn’t that Christians thought too much of the next world to impact the one that we have, it was that they thought of it far too little. When the destination’s in mind, the journey takes on new significance. Just like the swimmer who was unable to cross the English channel when fog darkened her path, when we choose not to look at where we’re heading, we aren’t as committed to getting there.
The subject of heaven has taken on renewed interest for me because of a sermon that my pastor recently delivered. In it, he suggested that just as they’re are different rewards given in heaven based on the good works that we do here on Earth, there are also different punishments merited in hell for the evil acts committed. He believes that a just God demands these varying degrees of severity and that the condition in which we experience our final destination is ultimately determined by how we conduct life here and now.
Setting aside the controversy that this position generates (and my guess is that it has generated quite a bit), there was some logic in the stance that my Pastor was advocating. Children and criminals are punished based on the degree to which they commit an offense. Why shouldn’t this economy of justice also be relevant in the life hereafter? We believe, and in fact are often motivated by the belief that things done on Earth are rewarded in heaven. In the same manner, maybe punishment is delivered too.
Ultimately though my concern is not with what the experience of Hell or Heaven is like its the fact that there is a destination at all. In an age when we are so focused on the process taken to achieve a goal (more often than not to be assurred that we haven’t offended anyone), we can forget that there is a goal in place. Our society teaches us that the process is more important that the arrival. In education, in relationships, in business, it’s all about continuous improvement. We forget that there is an objective standard by which our accomplishments are measured. In the same way, we forget that our journey here on Earth is just that, a journey. The destination is the ultimate purpose.
And we spend so much time trying to figure out what that destination is going to be like. We struggle to define something that is impossible for us to imagine. We contemplate all the trappings of our heavenly home, the streets of gold and the pearly gates, and forget the reason we want to be there. The reason, after all, is Jesus. As William Barclay once stated, ” For the Christian, heaven is where Jesus is. We do not need to speculate on what heaven will be like. It is enough to know that we will be for ever with Him.”.
The reason that Heaven is good is that that’s where Jesus is. The reason that hell is bad is because that’s where He’s not. Respectively, no reward or punishment can be greater than that. Heaven is itself the desired destination regardless of what else comes along with it because Christ is there. Hell, on the other hand, should be avoided at all costs even if we can expect a “lesser” degree of punishment, because it is where the creation is forever separated from the Creator.
I can’t imagine what Heaven might be like. Nor can I imagine hell. Regardless, I want to know that my destination is secure.
“Life is a journey not a destination” we’re told in an effort to moderate our activity. Turns out, they couldn’t have been more tragically wrong.
11:30 PM – 1 Comments –