The justice of heaven and hell

hell by bosch

Hell. Right panel of Haywain Triptych / Hieronymous Bosch, ca. 1516

I recently came across a Christian teenager who posed this theoretical situation: a person who never sinned, did everything perfectly according to the Bible, but didn’t believe in God. Why, he asked, would God want to send anyone to hell just for that?

Once upon a time, churched and unchurched people alike recognized God as the judge of mankind. They recognized that he stood against a category of behavior called “sin.”

Much of discourse within the church centered on how to be good enough to avoid going to hell.

Nowadays, churched and unchurched people alike are more likely to regard God as the defendant who must justify his opposition to sin.… Read the rest

An open door in heaven


“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” — Revelation 4:1 (NIV)

In the popular imagination, St. Peter is heaven’s gate keeper. That imagery serves as the backdrop for some truly hilarious jokes, but Scripture knows nothing of it. Much of the imagery in Revelation may be hard to understand, but there is nothing hard about this verse.

After hearing the voice of Jesus in the first chapter, John turned around and did not see the familiar face and body of the man he had followed in Palestine.… Read the rest

Worshiping through the Apocalypse

“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.” — Revelation (a.k.a. Apocalypse) 1:3 (NASB)

Someone has said that the New Testament is so simple that you need someone to help you misunderstand it. We’ve all had plenty of help! As far as Revelation is concerned though, I doubt if many find it simple at all.

There seem to be two predominant kinds of Christians when it comes to that book. Many avoid it entirely; it is too overwhelmingly confusing. Others teach from it all the time, attempting to guide people through the spiritual implications of today’s news.… Read the rest

Dwelling in the secret place

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” — Psalm 91:1 (NKJV)

The secret place of the Most High means nothing less than the inner sanctum of the heavenly temple, and the shadow of the Almighty is located between the wings of the cherubim on the ark of the covenant. What does it mean to dwell there?

In the natural, I have had several dwelling places, including dorm rooms, apartments, and houses. In every case, I have been able to visit other people’s dwellings, but my own dwelling is always different.… Read the rest

Visions of heaven

I’m sure we’ve all wondered what heaven will be like. It’s odd, though, how often people talk about heaven without mentioning God. Maybe that’s why there are so many glimpses of heaven in the Bible—to remind us of whose idea it was in the first place.

Most of us can only imagine a place much like earth, but with no troubles. Even inspired writers had trouble envisioning much more than that. Isaiah’s vision contemplates people having children, planting fields, building houses, and living as long as trees. He tells us heaven will be a new creation. That means it doesn’t exist yet, but what will it be like?… Read the rest