2020 has been a difficult year. Many of us have experienced the death of someone close to us. In response to this, humans have an innate desire for something more than this life and experience on earth. With that in mind, different cultures and religions have come to various understandings of the afterlife.
- In Egyptian religion, heaven was a physical place far above the Earth where departed souls would attempt to gain entry despite obstacles. Their heart was weighed with a feather. This determined if it was devoured by sin and their ultimate fate.
Buddhism has several heavens. One’s stay in heaven is not permanent as souls will use up good karma and undergo rebirth in another realm. The goal is to reach the full state of enlightenment called nirvana, thus escaping the cycle of life and death.
In Confucianism, heaven is the place where ancestors reside and where emperors draw mandates to rule their earthly kingdom. Heaven sees, hears, and watches over all persons and responds with blessings or calamities.
Islam describes heaven as a wonderful garden with shade for the righteous. The more good deeds one accomplishes in life, the higher level they will attain in heaven.
In different places of Scripture, heaven is given various descriptions – the upper part of the cosmic ocean that envelops the earth and the immediate canopy or ceiling of the earth, among others.
As we see, various religions borrow from each other as they strive to work out their understanding of life, what the gods demand, and what happens after death.
Traditional Christianity has taught that heaven is the location of the throne of God and his angels. Furthermore, it is thought to be where the dead go until the resurrection. But there continues to be disagreement about the nature and timing of the resurrection.
With all these ideas, conceptions, and different beliefs, how does one sort it all out and come to some semblance of peace?
Take Away and Call to Action:
Rev. Arnpriester’s beliefs about heaven:
- People, who know and love the Lord, are in conversation with God through prayer and Bible study. They come in and sit down in God’s kitchen.
- But what about those people who have done dastardly things and don’t believe in God? Rev. Arnpriester believes they go to heaven too, perhaps standing at the gate or on the front steps because they aren’t quite sure what they want to do or even if they want to be there.
- For people who are not in a right relationship with God, it’s not heaven for them to be in God’s presence. Instead it might be awkward and uncomfortable.
- But we can find great comfort and hope in John 10:16 where Jesus says, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Every person has as many chances as they need to get their relationship with God right.
- And when is a person’s relationship with God “right?” That’s not for me to decide – I leave it to God.
- I believe everyone is ultimately saved. As a mother loves her children, God loves you, me, and every single person.
- Death will come for each one of us one day. Then we too will find our place in God’s house with many rooms prepared for us from the foundation in the world. Because in Jesus, the last enemy of death is overcome.
Take confidence and comfort that God’s love is stronger than death – and whatever happened to Jesus also happens to us in death. Specifically, we are safe in the care of God for time and eternity.
Thanks be to God!