Tag Archives: Heaven

Is “Heaven and Hell” Biblical?

Is “Heaven and Hell” Biblical?

The answer is surprisingly, “No.”

Are you skeptical about that claim? Please hear me out for a moment….

If you were to do a search, in your Bible, to try to find the words “heaven” and “hell,” used in the same verse together, you might be shocked to realize something: the number of occurrences would be ZERO (Try it for yourself here, online). However, if you look for the words “heaven” and “earth” paired together in the same verse, you might discover about 200 occurrences in the Bible (Try it here, online).

For example, according to the King James Version, when Jesus teaches the disciples, “the Lord’s prayer,” we have, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Despite popular opinion, the terminology of “heaven and hell” is not found together in Holy Scripture. But “heaven and earth” quite frequently is.

So, why is that?

Joshua Ryan Butler, a pastor in Portland, Oregon, has written a thoughtful book, The Skeleton’s in God’s Closet, where he addresses some of the thorniest questions people have about God and the Bible, that focus on three central issues: Hell, Judgment and Holy War.

Butler makes the case that Christians often toss around lingo like “heaven and hell,” without really thinking about how the Bible actually addresses these topics. According to Butler, “we get hell wrong because we get heaven and earth wrong.”

Typically, we think that the Bible is constantly contrasting “heaven” and “hell,” when in reality, the Bible’s primary concern is the disruption between “heaven” and “earth,” resulting from human sin, that breaks down God’s good creation into horribly dysfunctional patterns of relationships. We tend to think of “hell” as this vast, underground torture chamber, but we miss the point, as “earth” gets completely left out of the story.

You know what I mean. We have all heard it before.

We are here on earth. We die. And then we go to one of two places: heaven or hell. End of story.

But earth is totally left out of the picture, by the end of the story.

Mmmm….

Butler makes the case, in the one-time Patheos blog of Preston Sprinkle (another young theologian/pastor with a bright mind), that, “heaven and earth are destined for reconciliation. God wants to bring creation back together from the things that tear it apart. God is on a mission to get the hell out of earth: to redeem his world from the destructive power of sin, death and hell.”

Have you ever thought of that before?

I have had Joshua Ryan Butler’s book on my “too-be-read” list for way too long. But his message is so thought-changing, that I thought it better to let Butler tell the story of the Bible himself, regarding heaven, hell, and earth, in this 3-minute video below, and then if it interests you, to encourage you to get the book. I would love to interact with someone about the book, and figure out, how in the world, he ever combs his hair.

Butler’s book also addresses other thorny issues, that strike a nerve in today’s culture, such as the whole idea of God’s judgment (“I thought God was a loving God?“) and the concept of holy war in the Old Testament (“So what makes the warfare in the Old Testament any different than what ISIS has been doing in Syria, for the past several years?“). Butler argues that we often have a caricature about God in the Bible, that leads many people to believe that the God of the Bible really is not that good after all, nor worthy of our trust.

Okay….Do you want to dive in more? Well, this gives me an opportunity tell you about a video podcast that I sometimes turn to, by Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales. The Phil Vischer Podcast is funny, a bit goofy, and at times will step on some toes, but Vischer and friends interview some fascinating authors, like Joshua Ryan Butler (One of Vischer’s cohosts is another young, smart theologian and writer, Skye Jethani … check out Jethani’s video on, “Why You Are Sick of Church.”)

The Phil Vischer video podcast interview with Butler was done a year ago, in January, 2017 (are we already in 2018??). If you want to get the meat of the interview, fast forward the YouTube video to the 10-minute mark. It will reframe how you think about heaven, hell, and earth, and help you in your discussions with friends, coworkers, family members on these difficult topics….. And, now for the extended story, from Joshua Ryan Butler, on the Phil Vischer Podcast…..


Jack Chick and the Real Halloween Scare

Jack Chick, fundamentalist cartoonist, died at age 92, on October 23, 2016. His most popular comic book tract was This Was Your Life.

Jack Chick, fundamentalist cartoonist, died at age 92, on October 23, 2016. His most popular comic book tract was This Was Your Life, viewable in full at www.chick.com, though I have included a few pages here. Jack Chick and the popular obsession with fear at Halloween have a lot in common .

I read my first “Chick tract” at a highway rest stop on Interstate 95 as a teenager. A middle-aged gentleman handed me this small comic book, spoke a few words, and before I could glance at what he gave me, the man quickly walked away. It was Jack Chick’s tract, This Was Your Life. I was already a follower of Christ, but what I read disturbed me, in more ways than one.

In one sense, Jack Chick was right. Before the scene shown above, a man who lived his life indifferent to the things of God, dies. Then this dead man was brought before the judgment seat, having his entire life exposed before the Lord, like on a theatre screen display. The hidden things were brought to light, demonstrating that his life, lived apart from Christ, had negative eternal consequences. He thought he could “get away with” sinful thoughts and actions in his life, thinking no one would notice, when in reality, nothing escapes the notice of God.

It is a terrifying thought. Continue reading


The Fear of Death

Bruton Parish Church courtyard... where my parents remains are buried.

Bruton Parish Church courtyard… where my parents remains are buried.

There is …a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance (from Ecclesiastes 1:1-8).

Over the past year, I have lost both of my parents to death. Less than a month ago, my dad died. It has been very interesting, watching the reactions of people who hear the news. Cordially, everyone is sorry for my loss. But it is astonishing how many folks will then gloss over the reality of death in their efforts to be nice to me.

For example, I am quite frank in saying that my father died. But most people I run into would rather talk euphemistically about someone’s passing instead. I am sure it is a desire to be polite and not offend a grieving person, but when someone passes, what does that really mean? Does that really tell the truth about death?

Here is a list of some sentiments that have been expressed to me over the past month:

“At least there is an end to your dad’s suffering. There is too much suffering in the world.”

“Your dad is in a better place. He is with your mother now.”

“Your dad is looking down upon you now… and smiling!”

All of these are quite bold statements, if you think about them. How do we know there is no suffering after death? How do we know that a loved-one is in a happier, better place, with others that are also loved… and smiling? Are any of these assertions true?

A curious one is that both my mom and dad are together now, implying that they are still married in the afterlife. But according to classic Bible teaching in Matthew 22:23-33, the bonds of matrimony are terminated upon death. Mormons, however, do believe that marriage goes on into eternity, but my parents were never Mormons, though we did have some Mormon missionaries knock on our door once back in 1978. I think they gave my mom some kind of pamphlet while my dad snuck out the back door to go cut the grass.

So, what then is the basis for the truthfulness of any of these assertions? Is scientific substantiation possible? Is it through some sort of revelation from a divine being, an intervention into human history? Or is it through the speculation offered by one’s own wishful thinking? How reliable is that? Could it be, that such sentimentality is a type of coping mechanism designed to take our minds off of what we fear the most?
Continue reading


Life After Death (Part 2)

“Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man.”
1 Corinthians 15:49 (see Dick Woodward’s post)

Rene DescartesHave you ever thought about your thoughts? This may seem like a ridiculous question, but it turns out there is a powerful apologetic argument for life after death that derives from simply understanding that humans have a body and a soul, and that the immaterial element (the soul) is spectacularly different from the material element (the body).

Continuing our review of the Areopagus Journal issue dedicated to Life After Death (Fall 2011), in this post we will explore what apologetics can bring to bear on the subject using philosophy, logic, and history.

The blog text below in italics is entirely the writing of Chad V. Meister.  I have edited out quite a bit of material to fit this format, without (I hope) misrepresenting his beliefs and positions.

Mind, Body, and the Possibility of Life After Death

Various conceptions of the human self have been held in the West, the two foremost being dualism and materialism.  Historically, dualism has been the more prominent of the two.  There are different conceptions of dualism as well, but on one main account the human person consists of two substances, one material (the body) and the other immaterial or mental (the soul or mind).  Rene Descartes (1596-1650) is perhaps the most widely recognized defender of substance dualism.  On his account, sometimes called the Cartesian view of the soul, the soul is an unextended, non-spatial substance, and it is contrasted with the body, an extended, spatial substance.  The soul and body are (somehow) connected to one another, but how an immaterial substance can connect to and interact with a physical substance is a bit of a mystery—a mystery which has often been castigated as the problem of the “ghost in the machine.” Continue reading


Life After Death (Part 1)

Serenity

Serenity by Henri Martin, 1899

Have you ever tried to share the concept of Heaven with someone who doesn’t understand much about the Christian faith?  The theology of Heaven can be a stumbling block to those who have haven’t thought much beyond caricatures of floating angels and harps in an afterlife.  How can something that every reasoning adult must process be so subject to myth and misconception? Can an apologetic approach help?

Yvonne Brendley recently gave me back issues of Bill Brendley‘s Areopagus Journal, published by the Apologetics Resource Center. The Fall 2011 edition addresses the topic of life after death.

So is there evidence for life after death?  This journal will address biblical, historical, philosophical, and scientific evidences that support the reality of life after death as well as refute false ideas about it.
Craig Branch, Senior Editor, Areopagus Journal, Fall 2011

Continue reading


%d bloggers like this: