If You Think You’re Going to Hell, Please Read This First

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Every Sunday the preacher shouted from the pulpit that you’re a terrible sinner. God is angry at you. Because of God’s wrath, you’re going to burn in hell for all eternity.
  • Your parents drilled it into you that you’re just no good. And they’re probably right. You just can’t feel good about anything you do.
  • You’ve done terrible things . . . horrible things. What you’ve done is so bad that you deserve to be in hell. There is no hope for you. You’re a goner.
  • No matter how hard you try, you just can’t be good. You know what you should do, but you just keep on doing the things you shouldn’t do.

If any of these are much too familiar for you, I’ll be straight: There are no easy answers. Besides, you’ve probably tried the easy answers already, and learned the hard way that they don’t work.

I’m also not going to tell you that all you have to do is believe in Jesus. Believing in Jesus is great. I highly recommend it! Being born again is wonderful! But for Christians, believing in Jesus is only the start. Then come the many years of growing from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity.

The fact is, if any of the things on this list describe your experience, then no matter how you slice it, you’ve got some hard work to do. And it may take years to fully recover, even with God’s help.

What I can offer you is new light and a new understanding of your situation. Nothing I say will snap you right out of it and instantly make your life a bed of roses. But it will give you hope that there is a path out. And it might help you take your next steps on that path toward the life of heaven God has in mind for you.

No matter what that preacher or your parents or anyone else has said, God created you for heaven, not for hell. And there is no reason on earth that you can’t find your way to heaven . . . no matter what your history.

So let’s straighten a few things out.

Is a wrathful God angry at you?

The short answer is: No.

Huh?!?

Then what about all those Bible passages the preacher quoted about God’s wrath and fury?

Doesn’t the Bible say, “God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11, King James Version)?

Well, there’s a funny story about that verse . . .

First, the word for “the wicked” came from an ancient Aramaic (or “Chaldee”) version. It is not in the original Hebrew text, nor is it in the other ancient translations. Even in the King James Version, the words “with the wicked” are in italics, meaning they are not in the original. So it should read, “God judges the righteous, and God is angry every day.”

But wait, there’s more!

You see, the Hebrew word for “God” in the second half of the verse could also mean “not,” depending on how the Hebrew is interpreted. And that’s exactly what most of ancient translations, including the well-known Septuagint Greek translation, have in that verse. The first half of the verse is also a little off in some of the older English translations.

What does this all mean?

The verse almost certainly should read, “God is a righteous judge, and is not angry all day.” (Compare Young’s Literal Translation for this verse.)

Picture a judge taking hundreds of cases, one after another, pronouncing just judgments all day without ever getting angry, even at the worst evildoers. That’s the picture the Psalmist is painting. And it’s just the opposite of what that old fire and brimstone preacher said!

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are lots of other verses in the Bible that talk about God’s anger and wrath. But as I pointed out in the article, “If God is Love, Why all the Pain and Suffering?” that’s just how God’s love looks to us when we’re bent on an evil and destructive path that’s opposed to God’s love.

God’s love is like the warmth of the sun. But what if you’re a snowman? What if you want to be cold and unloving? If you’re a snowman, God’s love looks wrathful and destructive. It’s a horrible, destructive heat that melts and destroys you.

When the Bible talks about God’s wrath, it’s talking about the effect God’s love has on everything that’s evil and false in us and in our world. It’s only when we identify with the evil and cling to it as our own that we feel God’s love as anger and wrath. And the Bible often speaks to us according to the way things seem to us, even if the reality is different from God’s perspective.

Did you know that the Bible talks about God’s love far more often than it talks about God’s wrath? Here is a beautiful passage assuring us that God feels only love toward us, whether we are evil or good:

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43–45)

And the famous verses from the Gospel of John:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16–17)

Notice that it doesn’t say God was so angry with the world, but God so loved the world.

So here’s the first ray of new light, and the most important new information about your situation: No matter what you may have been told, God is not angry at you. It’s just the opposite. No matter what you have done, and no matter how horrible or worthless a person you think you are, God loves you.

God sends you the sun of divine love, and the rain of divine truth, whether you are evil or good, and whether you are righteous or unrighteous.

There is nothing you can do to make God stop loving you. As the Psalm says:

O Lord, you have examined me, and you know me. . . .
If I go up to heaven, you are there.
If I make my bed in hell, you are there.
(Psalm 139:1, 8)

Are you condemned because of what your parents did?

Our parents were responsible for bringing us into this world. They are supposed to love us, care for us, teach us right from wrong, and guide us toward a healthy and responsible adulthood. And some of us were fortunate enough to have parents who did a fine job.

Unfortunately, some of us were born of parents who fell far short of the mark. Maybe they just weren’t ready to have children. Maybe they were too focused on money or power or pleasure to really care about their children. Maybe they were just plain evil and destructive types who used and abused their children at will. Bad parents can cause great damage to their children.

If you were one of those unfortunate children, does this mean your life is ruined from the start, and you might as well just throw in the towel?

In ancient times, it was common for whole families to be condemned and executed for the offenses of the head of the household. For example, when three men named Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rebelled against God’s commandments to the ancient Hebrews about the priesthood, not only they, but their wives and children died as a result of their disobedience. You can read the story in Numbers 16.

However, in course of time, God pronounced an end to the practice of children being judged guilty for the crimes of their parents. This pronouncement comes in Ezekiel 18—one of the most beautiful chapters in the Hebrew Bible. Here’s how the chapter begins:

The word of the Lord came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die. (Ezekiel 18:1–4)

The chapter then goes on to explain in detail that if a father is good, but his son evil, then only the son shall be held guilty; and if that son has a son who sees how his father lived, and resolves not to live that way, but to live a good life instead, then only the father, not the son, shall be held guilty.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

To us today, yes. Our justice system is based on individual innocence and guilt. To the ancient Israelites, though, this seemed quite unjust. They thought it was right and proper that if a man sins, his whole family should be punished!

God was quite clear, though, that this was not to be our practice anymore:

When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own. (Ezekiel 18:19–20)

However, when it comes to our spiritual and emotional life, sometimes we haven’t gotten the message. We think that because our parents were evil, and neglected or mistreated us, that means we, too, are doomed, and headed toward hell.

It’s not true.

Yes, we may have a long, hard road undoing the damage that our parents did to us. It might take much prayer, counseling, and much difficult and painful introspection and rearranging of our emotional and social life.

But God does not hold us responsible for the errors and sins of our parents. And neither should we. If our parents drilled into us that we’re just no good, they were lying to us. And if they used and abused us, they were perpetrating evil on us.

That lying and that evil was theirs, not ours. And though it did have a profound effect on us, there is a pathway out of the damage our parents did to us. It is the path of recognizing that what our parents did to us had nothing to do with us. It was their own immaturity, neglect, and evil, not ours, that damaged us. As we recognize that what they said was not true, and what they did was just plain wrong, we can gradually recognize that we ourselves are not what they said we were, nor did we deserve what they did to us.

If you were neglected or abused verbally or physically by your parents, it is not going to be an easy path out of what they did to you. But there is a path. And it starts with recognizing that you are not condemned for the sins of your parents. God created you for a reason. God loves you, and has prepared a place for you in heaven (see John 14:1–3, 1 Corinthians 2:9).

You have the rest of your life to leave behind the lies and the wrongs that were inflicted on you when you were young. You have the rest of your life to walk, even if painfully sometimes, the path toward the life of heaven that God has prepared for you.

Have you committed terrible sins?

What if it wasn’t your parents who did a number on you? What if you yourself have done terrible, horrible things? What if you don’t deserve to go to heaven because of what you’ve done?

If that’s the state of mind you’re in, then Ezekiel 18 has a message for you as well:

But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live? (Ezekiel 18:21–23, emphasis added)

Based on his experience in the spiritual world, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) tells us that this is precisely how it works after we die. In Heaven and Hell #509, he writes:

No one suffers any punishment for evil things done in the world, only for current evil deeds. . . . Good spirits are never punished, though, even though they have done bad things in the world. This is because their evils do not come back.

Swedenborg is simply affirming what God tells us in Ezekiel 18: We are not held responsible for things we have done in the past. Only for things we keep doing in the present. If we have done something terrible in the past, but have repented of it, have reformed our character, and no longer do things like that, then none of the transgressions we have committed will be remembered against us.

If you have done something terrible, there is no way to undo it. You and those you hurt will still have to live with the repercussions of your actions. But one of those repercussions is not that you must go to hell for it.

Of course, if there is any way you can make amends for what you have done, you should certainly do so. However, when your time on this earth comes to an end, you will find your place in heaven or in hell depending on the person you have become in the present, and the way you are living now, not based on any wrongs you have done in the past.

As the old saying goes, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner a future.”

So please don’t worry about the terrible things you have done in the past. God has already forgiven you for them. God has no pleasure in your eternal death. No matter what you’ve done, God wants you to turn from your old ways and live! Now it’s time to build a new life for yourself, so that you won’t do things like that anymore. For more on how to do this, see the article, “What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?

What if you keep doing things you shouldn’t?

It sounds like you’re in the same boat as the apostle Paul when he wrote:

I know that my selfish desires won’t let me do anything that is good. Even when I want to do right, I cannot. Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong. . . . In every part of me I discover something fighting against my mind, and it makes me a prisoner of sin that controls everything I do. What a miserable person I am! (Romans 7:18–19, 23–24)

As he went on to say, Paul found a rescue from this situation in Jesus Christ. However, as I said earlier, for Christians, believing in Jesus Christ is just the first step. After that comes the more challenging steps of living according to Christ’s teachings.

And for many of us who are very sensitive about our own wrongs and our own bad habits, one of the ways we don’t follow Christ’s teachings is to lay burdens on ourselves that are much too heavy—and are sometimes completely unnecessary.

In a recent article titled, “Is it Easy or Hard to Get to Heaven?” I expanded on this saying of Jesus:

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)

I invite you to read that article if you feel you just can’t live up to what you know is right.

Here’s another thought that might help:

Have you considered that even though you have some bad habits, and do some things that really aren’t good, maybe they aren’t really evil either?

Let’s face it: neither you nor I nor anyone else is ever going to be perfect. Each one of us will die as an imperfect human being, still thinking, feeling, saying, and doing some things that we really shouldn’t.

What we need is some standard by which to decide just how serious our bad habits and wrong actions are.

There are many possible standards. In case you don’t have one that works for you, may I suggest something really simple? The Ten Commandments. Especially the second part of the Ten Commandments, which is about how we humans are supposed to behave toward one another. I’m talking especially about these commandments (in their short versions):

  • Honor your father and your mother.
  • You shall not murder.
  • You shall not commit adultery.
  • You shall not steal.
  • You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
  • You shall not covet.

“Covet” is an old-fashioned word meaning wanting something that belongs to someone else. The problem with coveting is that it tends to lead to the other offenses: murder, adultery, stealing, and lying.

And about honoring your father and your mother, if the parents who raised you abdicated their parental responsibilities and did a number on you, feel free to think of God as your father and your mother instead. (For more on this, see “The Mother of All the Living.”)

Now here’s the question: Are the things you’re currently doing that are wrong actually against any of these commandments? Are you killing people, committing adultery, stealing, lying about other people, and so on?

If the answer is yes, then you do have a real problem—and you need to do the work of rebirth or “regeneration” in order to overcome it.

But if you’re not actually breaking any of these commandments, it’s quite possible that you’re laying too heavy a burden on yourself. Do you think you have to be perfect in order to get to heaven?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t continue to work on yourself. I’m not saying you shouldn’t keep taking steps to give up your bad habits and stop doing hurtful and destructive things. There is always room for improvement.

But are the wrong things you say and do really bad enough that you should go to hell for them? Chances are, they are not. They are simply areas where you still have work to do.

So go a little easy on yourself. The very fact that you’re concerned about your eternal state, and want to become a better person, suggests that you are on the path to heaven, not on that slippery slope to hell.

God wants YOU in heaven

God wants YOU for heaven

God wants YOU for heaven

Maybe you’ve given up on yourself. But God hasn’t given up on you. If God had given up on you, you would no longer be alive on this earth. In fact, here’s a thought to take home with you:

As long as you are alive and breathing on this earth, you can still find your way to heaven.

God has given us a lifetime here on earth because God knows that it takes some of us many years to whip ourselves into shape—with God’s help, of course. So use your time here well. Then you will not be disappointed when your time on earth is finished, and you move on to the next life.

If you still think you’re going to hell, consider these final words from Ezekiel 18:

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live! (Ezekiel 18:30–32)

Why would God say these words to us if God did not know and expect that we can leave our past behind, and live a new life?

Heaven is possible for you! The choice is yours. God will be with you, guiding and strengthening you every step of the way, because God loves you and cares about you. God has a job for you in heaven, and has prepared a home for you there. Do you really want to leave it vacant?

For further reading:

About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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Posted in Spiritual Growth, The Afterlife
203 comments on “If You Think You’re Going to Hell, Please Read This First
  1. Carmen Walisser says:

    When you believe in God, believe he created the heavens and the earth, and live a life accordingly, is this not good enough to get to Heaven? Are Christians today are running around scared that they may not go to heaven if they don’t evangelize and have so many people say “the Sinners Prayer?” I have not found that prayer in the bible as of yet. Seems to me there could be some danger lurking in all of this. Carmen

    • Lee says:

      Hi Carmen,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.

      In answer to your question, yes, I believe that believing in God and living accordingly is good enough to get to heaven. All those Christians who are running around scared and trying to convert as many people as they can to save them (and themselves) from hell have completely misread and misunderstood the Bible.

      For more on this, please see my article: “Is Jesus Christ the Only Way to Heaven?

  2. Jenny says:

    I believe in god An Jesus . I know Jesus died for our son. But to be with god u have to believe in Jesus . I’m worried I don’t believe hard enough. I still have questions An ask why. I know it’s ok to ask but not sure if my faith is strong enough for judgment

    • Lee says:

      Hi Jenny,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. Just be aware that God is loving and merciful, and not quick to judge and condemn. God knows that we are dust. And as long as we are continuing to learn and grow in love and faith, even if ever so slowly, God will gladly welcome us into heaven, and into God’s loving arms.

  3. Joy says:

    I am sorry Lee, but I am going to have to disagree with you. A lot of stuff in your article has a lot of truth in it. However when you started saying that hell is a choice, that is very false. No where in the Bible does it say that people who get sent to hell, can choose to leave hell anytime they want. That’s not how it works. If you have Jesus living in your heart and follow him and repent, then you are saved and will go to heaven. However if you don’t follow God or believe in him or repent, your destiny is Hell. Where you will spend eternity, there will be nashing of teeth, weeping and misery. and God will turn his back on you. No one will ever love Hell, it is eternal punishment and torture.
    While we are on this earth we have free choice, to follow God and repent. Once we die there is no longer a choice. We shall reep what we sow.
    We need to make the choose now, this is our last and only chance. Once we die, it is too late to choose.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Joy,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. However, I’m not quite sure what you’re referring to. I didn’t say, nor do I believe, that once people go to hell they can choose to leave. They have already made their choice, and they have no desire to change it. As you say, we make our choice between heaven and hell here on earth.

      However, I also don’t believe that God turns his back on anyone. Rather, when we choose hell instead of heaven, we turn our backs on God. God continues to love us even if we turn our backs on God and make ourselves enemies of God, as Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:43–45:

      You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

      And about hell, please see:
      Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?

  4. Well, Lee, I’ve been thinking a lot about all this subjects and my heart, conscience and knowledge tells me that the existence of hell is absolutely immoral. All those arguments that you wrote in your different articles make some “philosophical” sense, but definitely there is not an emotional (and, well, we are emotional loving human beings) argument to defend them. It doesn’t matter if the people that freely choose to go to hell really want to be there… for me it’s something abominable.
    It’s like if the father or the mother says to the son: “don’t do that, you’re going to suffer, we love you”. And the son still wants to do the bad thing… and they let them. That’s a poor example of how a mother or a father should act. In fact, they show lazyness or a passive-aggressive attitude. A good father or mother would just stop him, doesn’t matter if the little kid insists on harming himself. They would correct him in any possible way, even if they have to choose for him to show him what is good and what is bad. My parents did when I was young and in love (and I’m not making a Neil Sedaka statement). First I was angry because they chose for me. Then, I realized that they just loved me and made the right choice to make me grow better. To put it in other words… If I see someone who is going to jump from a bridge, I stop him or her. It doesn’t matter how much he or she thinks it’s good to commit suicide and leave this world. That would make us better than God. And that’s not the God I believe in.
    Now, you will probably tell me about the spiritual truths written in Bible… It’s okay. I find a lot of spiritual truths in there… But… How can I trust in a Father that doesn’t show Himself? I remember that amazing dialogue between Antonius Block and the Death in Bergman’s Seventh Seal:
    Block: I want to confess as best I can, but my heart is void. The void is a mirror. I see my face and feel loathing and horror. My indifference to men has shut me out. I live now in a world of ghosts, a prisoner in my dreams.
    Priest: Yet you do not want to die.
    Block: Yes, I do.
    [as Block looks away, we see now that the “priest” is actually Death]
    Priest/Death: What are you waiting for?
    Block: Knowledge.
    Priest/Death: You want a guarantee.
    Block: Call it what you will.
    [Block kneels as if praying to the figure of Jesus]
    Block: Is it so hard to conceive God with one’s senses? Why must He hide in a midst of vague promises and invisible miracles? How are we to believe the believers when we don’t believe ourselves? What will become of us who want to believe but cannot? And what of those who neither will nor can believe? Why can I not kill God within me? Why does He go on living in a painful, humiliating way? I want to tear Him out of my heart, but He remains a mocking reality which I cannot get rid of. Do you hear me?
    Priest/Death: I hear you.
    [Block turns to kneel before the priest behind the confessional screen]
    Block: I want knowledge. Not belief. Not surmise. But knowledge. I want God to put out His hand, show His face, speak to me.
    Priest/Death: But He is silent.
    Block: I cry to Him in the dark, but there seems to be no one there.
    Priest/Death: Perhaps there is no one there.
    Block: Then life is a senseless terror. No man can live with Death and know that everything is nothing.
    Priest/Death: Most people think neither of Death nor nothingness.
    Block: Until they stand on the edge of life and see the Darkness.
    Priest/Death: Ah, that day.
    Block: [laughs bitterly] I see. We must make an idol of our fear, and call it God.
    Priest/Death: You are uneasy.
    Block: Death visited me this morning. We are playing chess. This respite enables me to perform a vital errand.
    Priest/Death: What errand?
    Block: My whole life has been a meaningless search. I say it without bitterness or self-reproach. I know it is the same for all. But I want to use my respite for one significant action.
    I think it’s kind of hypocritical for a Supreme Being to say: “you are free to choose if you want to go to heaven or to hell”, but at the same time He puts conditions to that choice. You say that we freely choose to enter one place or another, but you also say that it depends on our actions where we go. That is, again, a passive-aggressive attitude. That simply doesn’t make sense. If a murderer kills five persons, he shall pay for that actions (but not forever, and ever, and ever, and ever…). The penalty shall be proportional to the crime. He (or she, once again) just needs to go to jail and pay for his/her actions. Someone convicts a murderer. In our Western Society, the Justice. Then God would convict a “bad person”, making His divine justice. The problem is that the justice He makes… is completely disproportionate.
    There’s free will on what we do in our lifes, but definitely not in where we choose to go. So, when you say that hell is a place we “choose” instead of heaven, because that would be too good for us, I find it contradictory… Or we are conditioned by an external being to make our choice (and in that case we won’t have the free will to choose) or anyone could enter into heaven, even evil, terrible, horrible, despicable people.
    That leads us to the next step: if we cannot choose whether we go to heaven or hell, there is definitely someone that sends us to one place or another. That “someone” must be God, or the Supreme Being of Light, or whatever you want to call it. I find it simply impossible for someone to choose hell over heaven, as well as no one (at least not most of the people) would choose jail over freedom.
    Which leads us, again, to a next step. For me death penalty is an absolute abomination, as much as life sentence without the possibility of parole (somehting, in my opinion, also absolutely immoral). I believe (and most of psychologists and psychiatrists would agree) in social reinsertion. Not doing so implies a denial of the very essence of the human being: the ability to choose. Every single human being needs a second chance (physical, emotional and spiritual) when he or she truly confront the “evilness” of their choices. If a bad person has commited horrible crimes all his life and ends up in hell… for me it’s immoral the impossibility of repentance after being shown it’s reality. That shows me a wrathful God. And contradicts some very interesting NDE’s (https://www.near-death.com/science/research/hell.html#a12).
    If there is no possibility of repentance… the souls sent into hell won’t be themselves, but spiritual beings “chained” to the condition they died in. Then… they are not themselves, but the state of mind in which they died. No mercy, no repentance, but also no evil desires to fuel. No one desires something forever. We are finite beings. That state of mind can’t represent them as a whole. Something external must be forcing them to act again and again in the same way. Then they are not free, but conditioned. Also it’s unfair to “judge” or to “choose” just by the state of mind that you die in and not as a whole in your life.
    So… if hell exists… I think the most mercyful way of acting is to destroy every single human soul in there. Cease to exist. A perfect nothing. We don’t remember anything before we were born… Why should a person remember something after dying?
    I don’t know why you find so terrible the possibility of reincarnation. I find mercyful and wise a God that gives us enough chances (even in different lifes) to find love and purity and spiritual growth than one that says to us: “it’s now or never… you ain’t gonna life forever”. It’s more mercyful to give us every single chance we need to reach perfection than tending us a pistol with just one bullet. That’s why I sympathize with the Eastern philosophy.
    I also sympathize with the famous Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong, which said that hell is an invention of the church to control people’s minds:

    I can imagine you know him. For me, that’s being moral and follow a dignified own conscience.
    Anyway, Lee… I find quite interesting your thoughs about these subjects. Hope you don’t find “aggressive” my comment.
    Greetings from Madrid!

    • Lee says:

      Hi David,

      Thanks for your thoughts. Some thoughts in response:

      About hell:

      Like Spong, I don’t believe that the hell that the Christian Church has taught for many centuries exists. I don’t think there’s a place in the afterlife where people are tortured forever as a punishment for their sins here on earth. Any God who would create or even tolerate such a place would be an madman, not a loving God.

      What I do believe in is a place, or state, in which people who enjoy doing evil are allowed to engage in that evil. Unfortunately, evil inevitably has bad consequences that boomerang back on those who commit it.

      What traditional, literalistic versions of a fiery hell of pain and torture miss is that hell is actually based on pleasure, not on pain. It is based on the pleasure people feel in doing evil. And those for whom the pleasure of evil is their primary pleasure choose hell because that’s where they can engage in the actions that they find so intensely pleasurable.

      In hell, nobody is punished for anything they did here on earth. But they do feel the consequences of the evil they continue to do there. And those consequences are not imposed upon them by God or by any great Devil, but by their fellow evil spirits, and by their own fears and internal contradictions. And yet, they continue to engage in their evil pleasures because they greatly enjoy them.

      For more on what hell isn’t, and is, see:

      Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?

      In other words, people in hell actually enjoy being there, even if to outsiders it looks like a horrible inferno of evil, lust, and pain. The people in hell don’t want to be anywhere else.

      About freedom vs. determinism:

      If we do not have real freedom, but are determined beings, then all of creation is a meaningless, inexorablably grinding machine with no purpose. I reject determinism because it destroys our humanity and the entire purpose of God’s Creation. For a philosophical look at this, see:

      God: Puppetmaster or Manager of the Universe?

      I believe that we humans truly are free to choose what kind of person we want to be, and what kind of life we want to live. No, we’re not radically free. There are some limits. We can’t decide to live three feet above the ground with no means of support. Gravity doesn’t let us. And there are some aspects of our character that are baked into us, that we don’t have the ability to change. But when it comes to our moral and spiritual character, we do have the ability to choose, assuming we have reached full adult maturity and self-responsibility.

      For those who don’t reach full adulthood, the default destination is always heaven, never hell. We make our home in hell only if we choose to be there as rational, self-responsible adults.

      About reincarnation:

      What I find “so horrible” about reincarnation is precisely that ultimately, it takes away our free will, and our humanity along with it. In the standard Eastern theory of reincarnation, we continue to be reborn until we reach enlightenment. That, to me, is about like a parent saying, “I don’t care if you have to sit at the dinner table for a thousand years, you’re not leaving until you eat your peas.” But what if we hate peas? What if we never learn to like peas? Doesn’t matter. You’ll sit there until you not only eat them, but enjoy them.

      That, to me, is a universe created by a control freak, not by a loving God.

      But there’s much more about this, including a story from Swedenborg about evil spirits in hell speaking of how intensely they enjoy their pleasures there, in this article:

      The Bible, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Reincarnation

      If ultimately we can make only one choice, and we have to keep doing it over until we make that choice, then it’s really no choice at all. We are not human beings, but puppets on a string dancing to a tune selected and determined by God.

      There is much more that could be said, but much of it I’ve already said in the linked articles, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

  5. Lee says:

    To a reader named James Claflin:

    You don’t have to do weird and crazy things to get to heaven.

    Instead, you have to love God above all, and love your neighbor as you love yourself, just as Jesus taught.

    Loving your neighbor means doing good things for other people as part of your job and your daily activities. And of course, it means not doing bad things to others or to yourself—something the Bible calls “repenting from your sins.”

    Short version: To get to heaven, don’t do bad stuff, and do good stuff instead, because it’s the right thing to do and because that’s what God commands us to do.

  6. Ty For responding so quickly. But what do you mean when you say that you will have to experience heart stuff to get to heaven ?

  7. Lee says:

    Hi James,

    Those are indeed intrusive thoughts, as you say. God would not tell you to do those types of things.

    If you read the Bible, you will see that God tells us not to do things that are wrong, and to do things that are right instead. Some of the particular things in the Bible were aimed at the culture of that time, but the general message is not to do bad and destructive things, but to do good and constructive things instead. There’s nothing in there about beating ourselves up, damaging ourselves, or doing painful and disgusting things in order to get to heaven. It’s all about doing good deeds of love and service for our fellow human beings as commanded by God.

    The hard things we experience on the pathway to heaven are mostly from our old bad habits and our resistance to changing them. We cling to our usual ways of doing things even when they cause us all sorts of trouble. That causes us to experience hard things as we struggle to leave those bad habits and bad ways of living behind, and as their harmful effects haunt us afterwards. For example, if we’ve been in the habit of stealing, we may still have to go to jail for past thefts even if we’ve realized that stealing is wrong and have committed ourselves to no longer doing it.

    Think of an addiction to cigarettes or alcohol, and how hard it is to break that addiction. That’s what it’s like to break the bad ways of living that we’ve grown used to, and to live in a better way instead.

    The path to heaven itself is not hard. It just involves loving God and loving our neighbor, as I said. But kicking our old bad habits is hard. Here is an article that may be helpful:
    Is it Easy or Hard to Get to Heaven?

  8. Lee says:

    Hi James,

    First, it sounds like you’re struggling with some self-destructive thoughts. There’s only so much I can help you with on that from here. Is there someone you trust that you could talk to about it? Perhaps a teacher or counselor at school?

    I can assure you that the sorts of things you think God wants you to do are not the sort of things God wants anyone to do. And they are certainly not the sort of things God requires us to do to be saved. I don’t know where these thoughts are coming from, but they’re not coming from God. If they’re coming from the spiritual realms at all, they are coming from evil spirits who are trying to get you to think that God wants you to do these sorts of things so that they can get their jollies seeing you fall for it. So don’t fall for it.

    Beyond that, I don’t know anything about you or your life, so it’s hard to say what you should do. However, in general, I would suggest two things (and then one more), if they are possible for you, and if you’re not doing them already:

    1. Get a job or get involved in volunteer activities.
    2. Get outside regularly and do some sort of exercise or activity that you enjoy.

    To take the second first, exercise, especially outdoor exercise, is one of the best antidotes to all sorts of mental struggles, depression, anxiety, and so on. Physically and physiologically, it gets blood circulating to the brain and produces all sorts of healthful hormones and antibodies that help keep us on a positive track mentally. Personally, I do a lot of bicycling. It helps keep me healthy both physically and mentally. It may seem hard to get going at first, but once you do, you’ll find that it lifts your mental state considerably. Get out three or four times a week, and keep doing it week after week. Join a local outdoors or activity club if need be to keep yourself motivated. Or if the outdoors really doesn’t work for you, join a local gym, and go work out there regularly.

    And on the first one, doing things for other people, whether in a paid job or as a volunteer, is one of the best ways to find stable and lasting satisfaction in life. Even something as simple as making your own personal project of picking up all the trash in your neighborhood and keeping it clean can give you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, knowing that your existence has meaning and makes a difference in other people’s lives. If you do have a job, think of the people you are helping and serving through your job, and do your job with that in mind. Human life is all about community and service. That’s where we gain our greatest joy in life. See, for example, this short article:
    Serving the Neighbor: Simple yet Profound

    Finally, you’re young. You have your whole life ahead of you. It’s not too early to start thinking about what you want to accomplish with your life, and to set yourself some goals. They don’t have to be big, fancy goals. Just something you want to accomplish in the coming years. Then set about doing the things that you need to do to get there.

    None of this will magically fix everything. Even people who have a job, have goals in life, and get regular, healthful exercise have their struggles. But these things help stabilize us and keep us going when our mind is doing wacky things and life throws curve balls at us.

  9. Lee says:

    Hi James,

    If you think God is telling you these sorts of things, then honestly, it would be better for you to stop believing in God. Because that is a false God anyway. The real God does not tell people to do these sorts of things. Just look at the Ten Commandments and you’ll see that God would not tell you to do these things.

    I seriously urge you to talk to someone in your area about these things. Your parents, a teacher or counselor at school, a priest or minister. Please get some help before you do something you’ll regret for the rest of your life.

    Your final question is a complex one, and has been heavily debated for many centuries. However, it basically boils down to our need to have free will for our life and choices to have any meaning. Here is a recent article that deals with this very question:
    Response to a Christian Universalist: Is There an Eternal Hell? Wouldn’t an All-Powerful God Save All People?

  10. sizakele says:

    how i needed to hear this,I’ve commited big sins of abortion and I lied to my loved once that i was never pragnant but now the guilt its killing me I want to come clean but I’m afraid that the will leave me all by myself,I read about your article and it made me think twice!please write for me more i want to know God more because ive comitted the sins being a Christian

    • Lee says:

      Hi sizakele,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for telling your story. I’m glad this article was helpful to you.

      About committing sins, it’s what you’re doing now that matters, not what you did in the past. See also:
      Ezekiel 18: God’s Message of Hope . . . If You Think there’s No Hope for You

      Having said that, the past still happened. Denying it can cause problems. What actually happened is likely to come out sooner or later—and sooner is usually better than later. If he’s going to reject you, it would be better for it to happen before you get even more tied together, and the rejection is even harder. You need to know whether he can accept the person that you have been, and the person that you are now. Without that, the relationship will always be built on a faulty foundation.

      Meanwhile, Godspeed on your spiritual journey!

  11. Donald Ferguson says:

    I try to believe for miracles and my healing but just fall way short on the believing. Yes, a lot of times I think God hates me. I have had to go through the loss of my 21 year old son and only brother in a 5 month period and several years later be diagnosed with not one but 2 life threatening illnesses. 1 has been cured but according to the dr.’s the other one is incurable. I don’t buy that I keep my Faith in God not man. I forget what it is like to go through a day and really feel good physically. I really want to ask you one thing that will help me out a lot emotionally and spiritually if you can tell me. I read the KJV of the bible. But like you said in your article there is a lot of wrong translation going on. So, could you please tell me the best bible to read that is the best translation of the Greek and Hebrew meanings. I realize it’s almost impossible to expect that because some Greek and Hebrew words don’t have an English translation. They throw in a word they feel best fits what they’re reading. Thanks!!!:)

    • Lee says:

      Hi Donald,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for telling your story. I’m very sorry to hear about the deaths in your family, and about your own life-threatening illnesses. (However, I’ve edited out the financial part, since that’s not what this blog is about.)

      About the physical illnesses, things don’t always go as we want them to, and God doesn’t always heal our physical illnesses. Many people do die of serious illnesses before they’ve reached their threescore and ten years—even people who have prayed fervently to God for healing. However, what God does ensure is that we always have the ability to go to heaven rather than hell if we are willing to think of others as much as ourselves, and devote a significant part of our life to serving others, while still taking care of ourselves as well. In other words, God may not always protect our body from harm, but God will always protect our spirit from eternal harm as long as we are willing to listen to and practice God’s commandment to love one another as God has loved us (John 13:34–35; 15:12).

      About translations, the King James Version in general is a fairly faithful translation, even if it is not perfect. Unfortunately, every translation is influenced by the doctrinal stance of its translators, and is bent toward that doctrine whether or not the translators intend it. So the best thing for those who have no knowledge of the original languages of the Bible is to read various translations and compare them with each other. Young’s Literal Translation can be helpful in getting a sense of what’s in the original languages, though its language also sounds a bit strange, so it’s not a good translation for devotional reading or reading aloud.

  12. Sheri-Lynn Coughlin says:

    I’m a bit confused when you say God doesn’t send you to hell I have watched dozens of NDE’s that state different they say that you cannot ever get out no matter how much you beg. That is your life is not changed completely you are doomed to hell for entirety. That is what got my anxiety to the max

    • Lee says:

      Hi Sheri-Lynn,

      First, though NDEs provide us with fascinating snippets about the spiritual world, they are just that: snippets. People who have NDEs get a glimpse into the spiritual world. They cannot provide us with a comprehensive picture of the spiritual world any more than someone who has a three-hour layover in a foreign city can provide a comprehensive picture of that city.

      Second, the experience NDEers have is influenced by their own particular background and beliefs. Yes, there are many common elements in NDEs. But, for example, traditional Christians sometimes experience pearly gates, whereas people from other religions experience the entrance to the spiritual world differently. The spiritual world is not an objective world like the natural world. In the spiritual world, our surroundings shift and change according to the state of our thoughts and feelings.

      Third, God gives people NDEs for a reason. Commonly that reason is to change their mind and outlook on life, and motivate them to focus more on their spiritual life. For some people, the fear of hell is, unfortunately, necessary to snap them out of destructive ways of living. If that’s what a particular person needs, that’s what that person will experience. But as with statements in the Bible about God sending people to hell, that is only how things appear. It’s not the reality. For more on hell and how it works, please see:
      Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?

      Anyone who truly wants to get out of hell can get out of hell. The problem is not that they’re locked in. The problem is that they have set their heart on evil, and they therefore can’t stand the atmosphere of heaven, but keep themselves in hell because that’s where they can be the (evil) person they have chosen to be. It might even feel to them like they’re trapped there. But the reality is that they’ve trapped themselves there.

      An interesting parallel in literature is Jean Paul Sartre’s play “No Exit.” In the play, three people find themselves in a room together. At first they believe they can’t get out. As the play unfolds, however, they discover that they actually can leave if they want to. However, they’re so engrossed in using each other for their own selfish purposes and reasons that none of them is willing to leave. (This synopsis is from having read the play over forty years ago, so it may not be correct in all of the details. But that’s the general idea.)

      There is no need for you to fear hell as long as you are willing to love others as you love yourself, as Jesus taught. This means, in practical terms, spending your life not only taking care of yourself and your own needs, but devoting your life also to engaging in useful services for others in your job, in your community, and in your family. Just to be clear, you don’t have to spend every waking moment doing things for other people. Jesus said to love your neighbor as you love yourself. This means you also must take the time you need to take care of your own physical, emotional, and mental health. For more on loving our neighbor, please see:
      How Do I Love My Neighbor?

      No one who is willing to think about the wellbeing of other people and do good things for other people either in a paid job or as a volunteer, or just in ordinary everyday life, has any reason to fear hell.

  13. Jeff Farinholt says:

    I never disagree with positive comments about our Creator, His Son Jesus Christ, my Savior, and I prefer to never again hear of a person suffering because of them not knowing God and Jesus. I also would like for all people to allow God to speak through them, as He did for Moses, and this privilege is available for all people if truth is in their heart. To provide my opinion of saying “I know I am going to Heaven” is this. Know your heart, and when our heart has been given to God through His Son, God knows as Jesus tells us “what you do on earth, I will tell our Father in Heaven”. So on one day, a person feels great and says for all the world to hear “I know I am going to Heaven”, and the next day, they perform knowledgeable sin against others. For another to excuse them and say “we are all sinners” is not our excuse in life, but this is the merry go round that exists today. When a person, and here is the answer many do not know, because they only gain guidance through mankind, the answer is when our heart is true to the Father and The Son, said person will become comforted through the communication sent by an angel that is sitting as we speak, at Gods footstool, waiting on their next mission, it is written. If it is the Father and Son we seek, then do so and stay attentive to their communication and answer back, or you may miss out and be delayed on what you seek, and believe me when I say this…you will then understand the verse that is written “Jesus is the Prince of Peace”. This is by far different than earthly or worldly peace. Have a great day and thank the Father for creation, and thank God and His Son Jesus for our opportunity to give ourselves back to Him. Believe you/me, at one point, the world was a blink of an eye away from a complete…”No More”. This was because of almost complete disobedience from mankind, and most are on that same path today and there will be a “No More” because Jesus is our last chance. With love to all…

    • Lee says:

      Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. While I would express some of these things differently, I appreciate your positive words. Godspeed on your spiritual journey!

  14. Michael says:

    I survived an intracranial hematoma and subsequent brain surgery so I’ve gotten close a couple times. Loved some other stuff you’ve written but really disappointed with this one. You appear to have really struggled on this topic and I’m guessing that it’s how you kept your faith, which is exactly what the concept of hell was designed to do: keep you programmed. It doesnt mean much of the other programming isn’t valid, but it’s still a stopgap in the code. For anyone reading this: hell doesn’t exist except in your mind, but the human mind is powerful in manifestation. So why should you be a good person? To have a good life. No one really wants to have a bad life, but some people are programmed knowing no other way. Hell is just manipulative mythology

    • Lee says:

      Hi Michael,
      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. Sorry to hear about your health problems. It does give a different perspective on this life.
      About hell, I agree that it exists in the human mind. But as you say, the human mind is powerful in its manifestation. And it is when the human mind manifests hell that it becomes real for us.
      However, hell is not the place of eternal punishment in fire and brimstone that traditional preachers think it is. Those are simply metaphors for the spiritual fire, in a negative sense, of greed, selfishness, anger, and hostility that the human mind manifests in action when we go to the negative side of life instead of to the positive. And ultimately that is entirely our own choice.
      For more on what the hell of the spiritual world is and isn’t, please see my article:
      Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?
      Personally, I do not fear hell or struggle with a feeling that I will go there. But due to the many faulty and wrong teachings about hell made popular by the materialistic Bible interpretations traditional Christianity, millions of people do have that fear. These are the people for whom I wrote this article.

  15. Lee says:

    To a reader named joua,

    Thanks for your comment. I am not approving it because it violates our comments policy. I think you know why. However, in response to your issue about pacifism in the Bible, it’s just not that simple. Please see this article:
    Can Christians be Hardass?

  16. I committed a terrible act of omission against my family.I have lost my mind and life is hell. I only look forward to dying but believe I will go to hell. I once had everything, now I have nothing.

    • Lee says:

      Hi janvictoriaepinney,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. I am sorry to hear about your struggles and your belief that you are going to hell. My belief is that there is no evil action, or inaction, from which we cannot repent and begin a new life if we are willing. However, since I don’t know what it is that you have omitted to do that you feel is so damning, I can’t comment on your particular situation. Meanwhile, I will recommend one more article for you to read, which may give you some help:

      Ezekiel 18: God’s Message of Hope . . . If You Think there’s No Hope for You

      Please feel free to continue the conversation if you want to share further or ask more specific questions. And please know that God does not condemn you, but still loves you and wants to accept you into those loving arms.

  17. Darcy says:

    Thank you.

  18. Andy Andy says:

    Hell is for beasts alike.
    Such is me.
    My soulmate put me into the abyss.
    And I shall never forgive.
    Only jesus can provide strength; for I shall need it.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Andy,

      May Jesus give you the strength to climb out of that abyss.

      • Andy Andy says:

        thanks.

        My suburb bears homeless populous.
        They look at me… I simply turn the other way.
        I care not for futile charities.
        I’m blessed to have two sisters who want to associate with me.
        I do not seek heaven; for I have no place there.
        I shall honor god to the best of my ability.
        In order to find strength and solace.
        For when the timings necessary I shall self-matrydom.
        __________
        since converting to christianity my health has rapidly improved.
        I dread the leap-of-faith that awaits me.
        But it’s my calling to be brave.
        Seeking solace in jesus helps. thanks again!

  19. Darcy says:

    I just watched (thought it was about something else, I try and avoid these) a video about a man who had an NDE. He went to hell and said that hell is filled with good people, average people like him who didn’t do anything wrong, in the larger sense. I keep hearing about these accounts and scriptures telling how hard it is to get to heaven, etc.. I want to believe you, obviously, but there’s more saying just the opposite of what you are saying. I’ve been trying all my life, to evolve spiritually, and I still feel like I’m in a white out blizzard and have no clue. There’s never any feedback. Just different people claiming different, opposing, things.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Darcy,

      It’s fairly common for NDEs to be bent toward the beliefs of those who have them. Traditional Christians sometimes see the “pearly gates” of heaven, with people streaming through them, because that’s what they expect based on a literal reading of certain passages in the Bible. While I haven’t seen the video you’re referring to, I suspect that this man was not actually seeing hell, but was seeing something that he expected to see there: namely, people who aren’t Christians being in hell.

      Not all NDEs give a clear picture of what the afterlife is like. NDES are focused on giving the particular person what he or she needs at the moment. Sometimes that means confirming for them things that aren’t really true, but that their faith depends upon.

      If you want a much clearer picture of the afterlife, please get yourself a copy of Swedenborg’s book Heaven and Hell. Unlike the very brief experiences in the spiritual world that NDEers have, Swedenborg was able to be fully awake and present in the spiritual world much of the time for nearly thirty years. This gave him enough time to get a handle on the realities of heaven, hell, and the world of spirits in between. See also my article, “Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?

      About it being hard to get into heaven, please read the chapter in Heaven and Hell titled, “It Is Not So Hard to Lead a Heaven-Bound Life as People Think It Is,” starting at #528.

      Also, please go to my article, “Response to a Calvinist Critique of my article ‘Faith Alone Does Not Save’,” and start reading at the section titled, “Matthew 7:13–14: The narrow gate.”

      I hope this helps.

      • Darcy says:

        No, but thanks for trying. I can’t imagine how many comments you get daily.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Darcy,

          You’re welcome. I do hope you’ll take a look at some of the material I pointed you toward. The best antidote to a mental blizzard is solid and reliable information, which is like a series of bright flashing beacons helping you to see your way through the blizzard. When it comes to spiritual phenomena, Swedenborg provides that solid and reliable information in the midst of a blizzard of hazy and conflicting information.

  20. William Wages says:

    Well I’m not going to lie about my lack of faith. I turned away from god a long time ago and I don’t really have the strength to turn back now. I go to church to keep appearances I guess, but I only notice the others growing and me staying the same. I get mad and walk out, wait a while and go back. There is a point to which someone will pass that they can no longer turn around. I researched it and have spoken with pastors, and leaders in the church and they all believe that someone can come to their senses after turning away and try to turn back but they are too late. I have reached that point and yes it is real. I would never wish this empty feeling and hopelessness on anyone. I felt the icy feeling when the spirit left me right after walking out of church and was called back in by the spirit but I continued to drive home and denied and denied and denied over and over again. People should heed to the calling because there is a point of no return and yes you still want it back after losing it. I can’t do anything about it now so I just continue to live and hope but I don’t try anymore. It will wear you out.

    • Lee says:

      Hi William,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. I’m very sorry to hear about your struggles with your faith, and the sense of personal gloom that has settled over you as a result.

      However, the only final point of no return is the time of our death. At that time our choice has been made, and we will go on to live in whatever spiritual state we have chosen, whether heavenly or hellish. As long as we are living and breathing on this earth, we can still choose to turn around and go in a different direction. Even if we may not make it very far in our new direction before we die, the important thing is not where we are, but which way we are headed. If we turn around and start heading toward heaven before we die, we will continue in that direction in the spiritual world, and will find our way to heaven.

      Those pastors who have given you the impression that you have reached a point of no return are doing a disservice both to you and to God by filling your mind with false notions about God and salvation. They will have to answer for their false teaching when it comes their time to stand before the throne of God. The reality is that God is always ready to receive each one of us into the “everlasting arms.”

      More to the point, despite the continual false and unbiblical preaching and teaching of so many Protestants for so many years, it is not our faith that saves us, but how we live based on our faith. You may feel that your faith is weak. And that is certainly a concern. But the important thing is how you treat your fellow human beings based on your sense of right and wrong.

      In your day-to-day life, to you lie, cheat, steal, and generally treat your fellow humans badly out of a desire to advance your own interests at their expense? Or do you care about your fellow human beings and do your best to make life better for the people around you? How do you live? Even if your faith in God may be weak, do you love your neighbor as yourself, as Jesus taught us to do? That, and not mere “faith,” is what will determine where you make your eternal home in the spiritual world.

      No matter which way you slice it, you clearly have some struggles ahead of you in your spiritual walk. However, your burden can become much lighter if you are ready and willing to leave behind the false ideas you have been taught in your current church, and by the pastors you have consulted, and come to an understanding of the truth. Here are some articles to get you started:

      And there are many more where those came from! Meanwhile, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  21. Rod says:

    Hi Lee. Thank you for this article. For a long time I was 90% percent sure that I would go to hell. Nowadays I have much more hope of becoming a citizen of heaven despite my many flaws. Anyway, I have a question about the people who live in a morally gray area. I will give as an example the character Severus Snape of the Harry Potter books and movies. Here is a man who is strict, treats people in a very harsh way, sometimes even humilliating them and doesn’t know how to be kind to anyone. Still, he turned out doing great things to fight against evil and showed a great devotion towards the person that he loved. What happens to people like that? Heaven or Hell? I know it is God’s to judge, but I’m always puzzled by people who treat others pretty badly but surprisingly turn out to be quite generous and selfless in certain situations. I assume that they will probably reach Heaven, but I’d like to know your thoughts about it. Someone being so bad most of the time but so decent in crucial moments is something that never ceases to amaze me, especially considering the fact that I have always had a lot of difficulty in dealing with strict people since I have a pretty soft and delicate personality.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rod,

      Being strict is not necessarily the same as being in a morally gray area. Some people who are very strict are that way because they believe that morals are very important, and they want to make sure that the people they are responsible for (their children, students, employees, etc.) behave in a morally upright fashion. It may or may not be the best way to achieve that goal, but the intention is to inculcate good behavior in others. And in the afterlife, when it comes time for the person to follow the path to an eternal home in either heaven or hell, it is the intention behind the action that will matter most.

      A character like Severus Snape seems very severe, as his name indicates. But it becomes clear through the course of the story that his severity is part of his own way of following a good path. This is an example of why we can’t always judge people by their outward appearance and actions. We do not know how or why a particular person may have become strict and unforgiving in behavior. Perhaps they had hard experience in their own background, or perhaps they inherited a naturally stern character. What really matters is their motives, and what they’re trying to accomplish through their actions.

      Further, experiencing strictness and severity may be necessary for some people to move forward in their lives. People who tend to be loose and amoral, and whose thoughtless actions could get them into a lot of trouble, may need someone to lay down the law for them, and punish them when they break it, in order to put them on a more constructive path that will lead to better things.

      Even people with soft and delicate personalities may need a reality check along the way from someone who doesn’t treat them softly and delicately. The world we live in is very often not soft and delicate at all, but will chew up and spit out people who enter it with softness and naivete. It’s better to experience strictness at the hands of a Snape-type character who underneath it all does care than to first experience coldness and hardness at the hands of a cold and uncaring world when first emerging from the womb of home and school into independent adult life. This can be a shattering experience for young adults who aren’t prepared for it. To use a physical analogy, we need to develop calluses on our hands in order to avoid blisters and pain when we first have to pick up a shovel and dig.

      In short, people who are strict and severe, but, when they berate or punish people for their bad or thoughtless behavior, are thinking of the moral betterment of those they chastise, and of preparing them for life in a fallen and sinful world, will find their home in heaven after they die.

      On the other hand, people who are strict and severe, and punish others, not from intentions of setting them up for a better life, but because they enjoy the sense of power in demeaning and humiliating others, will find their home in hell in the afterlife.

      I am glad that as a society we are gradually moving beyond public humiliation as a form of punishment, both for children and for adults. In today’s more individualistic culture, public shaming does not have the same effect that it did in the past, when a person’s sense of self was heavily bound up in his or her standing in the eyes of the community.

      However, I also recognize that we live in a mixed culture that has one foot in the old and the other foot in the new. This means that the old style of severity in discipline and public humiliation as punishment still exists in our world alongside more humane punishments that involve deprivation of property or freedom as punishment for various offenses.

  22. Rod says:

    Hi Lee. Thanks for the answer. When I talked about being in a moral gray area, I think I should have expanded my thoughts a little bit or used a different expression. Perhaps Snape was not the best example for me to use. I was thinking about people who in daily life treat everyone pretty badly in a very hurtful way (not necessarily punishing them for some bad behavior) but at the same time if someone needs their help or asks for a donation for charity they help in a very generous way without hesitation. It’s like in the little things of daily life they are extremely unpleasant towards everyone in most situations (again, not necessarily in an instance when someone needs to be corrected) but in the big things like helping people they do it without second thoughts. I think my point is that the little things of daily life matter too. Some people are rude in an unnecessary way, like if you say “Good morning” they say “Get off my face!” and so on. I still think they will go to Heaven, but that odd behavior puzzles me because it’s weird to be horrible to most people in most situations but good and generous in the most important moments.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rod,

      It’s not always easy to figure out why people behave the way they do. Some people are decent at heart, and will do the right thing, but have a surly disposition. Others are black-hearted, but will act with utmost politeness to people’s face while stabbing them in the back. Once again, when it comes to their eternal home, what’s in the heart will prevail over the appearances of outward behavior.

      Some people are surly because they were treated that way themselves when they were growing up, or since. Others as a defense mechanism because they fear being taken advantage of. Others because they really are mean people. We see the outward behavior, but the Lord sees what’s in the heart.

  23. Rod says:

    Yes, I agree. Thank you.

  24. Scared & Terrified says:

    Unfortunately, I wish there was hope for me. It seems there comes a point when the wrath of GOD overtakes you. I loved GOD more than anything and believed HE loved me. But I truly didn’t understand purity. Every christian I know listens to secular music or watches movies and tv pretty casually. I wanted to be a christian and a film maker and writer. I’ve been thrown down by GOD because of my sin. Jesus said in Mark 7, And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
    Mark 7:20‭-‬23 ESV

    It wasn’t until the enemy showed up more real than I possibly imagined possible for a christian believer in Jesus Christ that fully believed He was loved by GOD and continually thanked Him and prayed for guidance and the well being of others and above all His will to be done. Told others just about everyday day how loving our GOD is. What Jesus says in that verse in Mark 7, contained there within is basically every plot for every movie or tv show, even kids shows or any books beyond baby books that are fiction for entertainment. I thought Jesus meant we needed His sacrifice on the cross because those things were so prevalent. I had mystery novels and sci fi fantasy novels I was working on. Continually giving my mind to plot points that involve what Jesus says defiles us in that verse. I thought I was forgiven and loved. But then I was thrown down, and I was fine when I believed GOD loved me. But then the enemy showed up in such a supernatural way it appears I’m destined for hell. I truly didn’t believe television or music was that bad a thing. I see how godless it is now and see what Paul wrote about in Romans without Christ (truly), we appear to be only enemies of the cross of Christ. The enemy showed up and terrified me to death. Now the plants are dying from the inside out like GOD’s wrath, a waterless tree and the wicked won’t have even root or plant (Malachi 4, I think). It didn’t matter how much I thought about GOD, prayed earnestly and read the Bible every day. The enemy still got me. I see now, terrified, that I was supposed to even use discernment with Christian music. Some of my former favorites like Skillet openly talk about loving and taking inspiration from satanic bands. I just thought of it like a fictional movie or tv show so I never judged that kind of thing before. But I see now that lacked discernment. But they’re a christian band talking about GOD’s love…. I just never saw this deception coming. The enemy is so prevalent. I know GOD is perfect. I know all power and authority was given to Christ. Why the enemy and our sins destroy everything we love so easily is beyond me. But Job, relatively, was a righteous man and he got annihilated by GOD through the devil. Job didn’t do anything wrong I guess the Bible says. And Jesus was perfect, and He got annihilated by GOD and appeared to suffer us much of the time He was here. What hope is there for American Christians who watch murder mysteries or even Star Wars that’s filled with eastern teachings. It just seems we have no hope. At the moment I’m being destroyed and now my mind is being pulverized. Maybe GOD will relent and let me turn from all tv with its now I see obvious immorality (Avengers Endgame filled with sexual immorality about Captain Americas butt and a child even cusses in it, and Iron Man always wears Black Sabbath t-shirts and is the hero, and although I know it’s evil, some of the best Christians I’ve ever heard of, local churches and others like Pastor John, give praise to those franchises at times through their ministry and congregation). It’s just a living nightmare this world is and hell appears to be coming for me and I hope not too many others. I used to see the beauty and love of GOD in almost everything…. I didn’t know how offensive just everything that isn’t fully christian just naturally is without even trying to be. I see that’s likely what Paul was getting at in Romans… we have no righteousness without Christ, so that likely means godless hollywood and the music industry is likely just natural rebellion though I grew up on relatively family friendly shows. I’m truly terrified, and like Job, His waves hit me just about all day everyday and it’s gone on over my head and what I care bear for over a year straight. I went to a christian university and worked at a christian social work service, and invited people to church… I tried and then it was like my life ended in a moment and everything was snatched away… I was 28 when it began, then the devil showed up at 30 in a horrific fashion and I realized I was wrong thinking movies and music were relatively okay…. that it’s just fiction. But if we’re supposed to take what Jesus said literally in Mark 7, watching tv shows that have theft, deception, murder, sexual immorality, magic like Paul condemns and is condemned in the old and new testaments…. means Harry Potter is likely evil and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and anything with plot lines around coveting which is both in childrens and adult tv shows. It just seems we’re screwed by and large. I’ll be jumping for joy if GOD’s wrath subsides and I can live life again serving others but now also understanding better than ever how important purity is… and what it might even pertain that I practically never learned about in church as even baptist churches welcomed metallica music since I was small and no one was rebuked. A pastor nearby made a joke about being the serminator, like the terminator, and put on the glasses and talked in a robot voice. It was a joke. 3 years ago I would have thought nothing of it and laughed. But Terminator is full of violence, murder, cussing and full on nudity and sexual immorality, is completely godless and she gives birth to a savior with the initials J.C. this pastor doesn’t even watch tv really, but made that joke in church just about being the Serminator – I’m so scared and terrified to death and it’s like the enemy is everywhere and truly the god of this world like Paul talks about and everyone, even Christians, appear to be decieved, and it’s one thing if you thought GOD loved you and wants to redeem you still, but I believed with all my heart and mind until the enemy through other Christians in ways I thought would never be possible, showed up, like a possession horror film scaring me so fiercly- which believe me, I don’t like movies like that though I liked Koonts and horror films like those. The LORD’s waves obliterate me every day still. I’m scared to death. I just don’t have hope that I didn’t cross some threshold for sin and angered GOD. Those verses in Ezekiel were some of my favorite. I didn’t understand what turning even meant because so much evil is so prevalent. So I focused on serving and loving others… laid my life down and gave away most my possessions. Then the enemy showed up and took just about everything else. I have horrific nightmares now all of a sudden (never used to), and I can’t even sleep. It’s like Job, even when he closed his eyes on the couch he was struck with terrors. But Job was a good man. I supported hollywood and all sorts of evils amongst trying to serve GOD. I just didn’t want to judge, judge not, ya know? But I see that led me not to use discernment… I supported Marvel who in turns supports Black Sabbath by putting it’s hero in the t-shirt and playing it’s music (a supposedly kid friendly movie)…. and Ozzy who is in Black Sabbath, a man known for not having a sober mind, literally claims to have seen the devil standing at his bedside and has incredibly blasphemous music… I just thought it like fiction, like it was something not so evil…. but the whole world lies in the power of the devil and I seem cast off by GOD now- at least for the moment, if not for all eternity in hellfire.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Scared & Terrified,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for telling your story. Though some of the specifics of your situation are unclear in my mind, I’ll offer a few thoughts that I hope you will find helpful.

      First, what you are now experiencing is not being abandoned by God. Rather, you are experiencing what is known in traditional Christian terms as “temptation.” Temptation as the Bible speaks of it is not so much being tempted to do something wrong as it is a testing and trial of our character, which is the original meaning of the word.

      When we are in the midst of these trials of temptation, it feels as if God has abandoned us. That is why Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But he was also quoting the first line of Psalm 22, which describes the trials of temptation, and their resolution, in poetic and metaphorical terms. I highly recommend that you read it prayerfully. The Book of Job is also a metaphorical story about a good man going through severe trial and temptation.

      The reason God allows us to feel that God is absent and has abandoned us in the midst of our trials is that this is precisely when we are exercising our God-given spiritual freedom to decide which direction we want our life to go. This is when we are on the cusp of leaving behind our old self and our old life, and embarking on a new one—if we choose to go up rather than down. That is a choice that only we can make for our own self and our own life. God respects this crucial human freedom, and therefore allows us to feel that we are making the decision without God’s presence. In reality, in times of temptation, that is when God is closest to us, because that is when we are closest to our core self as human beings. The old “Footprints” poem illustrates this beautifully.

      My sense is that your life is at a crossroads. You are faced with a very difficult decision about what direction you will go in next. That is a very hard and painful thing. But it is not a bad thing—as bad as it may feel to you when you are in the middle of it. Rather, it is an intensely human moment in your life. The decision you make in the midst of this severe trial and temptation will determine your character and your life path from this point forward. The freedom to choose our own character and our own path is one of the most precious and most human gifts that God has given us.

      I therefore urge you not to despair, but to continue the struggle to discern and decide in this pivotal moment of your life who you want to be and what you want to devote your life to going forward. Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

      Moving on to your observations about movies, entertainment, and popular culture:

      The fact that there are wrong and evil things in popular movies and entertainment does not by itself mean they are bad and evil. The Bible itself contains many evil people and evil events. If we had to reject anything that has any evil words and actions in it, we would have to reject the Bible, too.

      The issue is not whether a particular movie, book, or other entertainment contains evil. The struggle between good and evil is fundamental to human life on this earth. Entertainment that doesn’t have conflict, usually involving some evil elements, is weak and insipid because it does not address the realities of the human condition.

      Rather, the issue is whether the movie or book accurately portrays the realities of evil, and its inevitable destructive results. A movie may even glorify evil people, such as the Bonnie and Clyde story. But at least that story shows that their wrong behavior results in their death.

      On the other hand, if a movie, TV show, or book glorifies people who do evil, and portrays them as living happily ever after, then it is painting a wrong and false picture, and really is an evil and false entertainment. It is telling untruths about the nature of evil and about the lives of people who give themselves over to evil. For an example of this, please see:

      Charlie Sheen: Man and Myth

      If you still wish to work in popular entertainment in some form, it is not necessary for you to avoid any evil in any depictions you may write and direct. Rather, it is necessary to tell the truth about evil. Evil can be depicted vaunting itself, as it does. But it must be shown for what it really is, and all the pain, sorrow, and destruction it causes. And if there is to be a happy ending, evil must ultimately be defeated by good. That is why movies such as “The Avengers” are not evil, even if they do contain some material that is not ideal. We live in a fallen and imperfect world.

      Finally (for now), about “purity”:

      The simple fact of the matter is that we humans are not pure, and we never will be. The book of Job tells us that even the angels of heaven are not pure in God’s sight (Job 4:18; 15:15). If even God’s own angels are not perfect in God’s sight, then the idea that we must be perfect in order to satisfy God is just plain wrong. On this, please see:

      Personally, I don’t enjoy seeing kids swearing in popular movies and TV shows. But the unfortunate reality is that kids do swear. Portraying that in a movie is just bringing in a bit of realism. That particular issue probably won’t be resolved in our culture any time soon.

      However, swearing is a relatively minor evil. Unless it is taking the name of the Lord in vain, it is not against the Ten Commandments. And even taking the Lord’s name in vain has more to do with claiming to follow God while actually engaging in evil. Christians who are hypocritical and do evil while claiming to follow Jesus are taking the Lord’s name in vain in a far greater sense than some ordinary Joe or Jane who blurts out “Jesus Christ!” when something bad happens. Such Christians are giving Jesus a bad name, and chasing people away from Jesus by their bad behavior under a claimed banner of being “Christian.”

      It is important, as the above article points out, to consider whether what we are doing is actually breaking any of the Ten Commandments and the other major laws given in the Bible. It is not “Christian” to beat ourselves up about doing things that are not actually forbidden in the Bible.

      Of course, there are some things that are evil that are not specifically condemned in the Bible. In that case, we have to consider whether they cause real harm to other people and to ourselves. If there is no real and significant harm done by particular words or actions, then though they may be tinged with evil, they are not the sort of evil that condemns us to hell. But if they do cause real harm, then they are evil even if the Bible doesn’t specifically condemn them.

      I would therefore counsel you to consider whether anything you are doing is causing actual harm. “Christian” leaders today place heavy burdens, hard to bear, on the shoulders of their followers, just like the hypocritical Jewish leaders that Jesus upbraided in the Bible. The Bible itself takes a much more pragmatic approach. We should follow the Bible’s lead, and be pragmatic as well. As Jesus said:

      I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16)

      I hope these thoughts are helpful to you. Hang in there. There is a greater purpose to what you are going through. Re-evaluating our whole life is very hard and painful. But it is essential to our humanity, and to our spiritual rebirth as children of God.

      If you wish to continue the conversation, please feel free to post further comments here.

  25. Chad says:

    Hi Lee, I wanted to know your thoughts on the trajectory of my spiritual development, and that of others like me. Sometimes it feels as though the world, and the weight of humanity’s collective evil is trying to drag me down, despite my longing to be a good person and soul. Whenever I read or hear about workers being used as mere cogs, of people lying and cheating their way to greater wealth and power, I ask myself, “would I follow through in their footsteps?”, and the answer is always, instinctively, “goodness, no, that’s horrible!” I cannot imagine being so attached to power, wealth, and superficial things, that I would hurt anyone for that sake. It is the everyday interactions, however, that make me sometimes wonder where my heart and soul truly lie. The everyday frustration, short temper and stress that make me wonder, “is this going to be the person I turn out to be in the World of Spirits? Am I going to go to hell for it?” Deep down, though, I dearly hope that the good in me will prevail.

    My apologies if it seems like I’m rambling, but the cognitive dissonance I face between the cold, stressed-out person strangers see and the warm and kind soul I am on the inside (and shines through when I’m not stressed out by life!) sometimes causes me spiritual pain. During the dizzying, sometimes seemingly unrelenting, pressure of the day, it’s easy to feel angry and short-tempered at people, and for those emotions to feel very real, and even like they are from the heart (hence, my worry about whether that anger really is a part of me and could take me to hell). Conversely, when I’m at peace, I reflect on how much I love those close to me, and was once compelled to pray to the Lord to show mercy to those in hell. I think that prayer was one of the first times I truly understand what Jesus meant by “love your neighbor as yourself”.

    I guess what I mean to ask from those two paragraphs is: it sometimes feels like both the good and bad parts of me are part of my soul. How can I know where my “ruling love” is, where my heart and soul truly are?

    I’m sure I could have worded this better, but those are my thoughts at the moment. Thank you for your thoughts, and God Bless!

    Chad

    • Lee says:

      Hi Chad,

      The Bible doesn’t actually have the commandment, “Thou shalt be nice.”

      Mind you, I think being nice is generally a good idea, all other things being equal. But if I want someone to work on my teeth, I’d rather have an excellent dentist with a poor bedside manner than a charming dentist who does shoddy work. In fact, the best dentist I ever had was quite brusque. That turned a lot of people off. He probably lost some customers. But it didn’t bother me. Some of his work is still in my mouth several decades later.

      Is it a good idea to work on our mood and our ability to handle stressful situations with aplomb? Of course! But when we get to those Pearly Gates, is St. Peter going to ask if we were ever rude to a customer? I doubt it!

      I do think that the ongoing stress of work, life, and relationships is an ongoing test of our character. But the real test is whether we treat people right even if we may not always be able to keep our full cheerfulness and equanimity while doing it. Yes, it’s definitely worth working on our mood and demeanor. That is an ongoing job for many of us. But the really important things are contained in the Ten Commandments and the other oft-repeated injunctions in the Bible not to do things that are wrong, and to do what is right instead.

      Even in heaven, we’re the same people we were here. Though overall the situation there is much better, we’ll still have some tough challenges to face in whatever live of work we do. We can continue to work on our mood and character even there if we weren’t quite able to polish ourselves up here.

      One more thought for now: As finite, created, and sin-prone human beings, we will never be perfect. Not even in heaven. Not to all eternity. Not only will there always be some rough edges to our character to work on, but every evil we’ve ever engaged in or indulged in inwardly is still there with us. It’s simply pushed farther and farther to the side when we focus our life on doing good and on serving God and the neighbor.

      The best and most angelic people in the world and in heaven have their shadow side. But God keeps it quiescent as long as they keep their focus on loving God and the neighbor. Only when they temporarily fall off that path will they feel their old evils and faults of character roaring back. But that is indeed a temporary situation. Experiencing their own dark side is enough to make them realize that God, goodness, and light is what they really want.

      I hope these thoughts help. Feel free to continue the conversation if you wish.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Chad,

      I just realized that I didn’t answer your question about how you can know where your ruling love is.

      The best test is to ask yourself, “What do I get the most joy and pleasure from doing?” And to determine what your ruling love is not, you can ask yourself, “What things leave me cold, listless, and uninterested when I do them, or actively make me feel bad?”

      We get our greatest joy, or perhaps pleasure, from doing the things we love the most. That’s why our sense of joy, happiness, and pleasure is a good indication of where our real loves lie. If our loves are evil and destructive ones, “joy” doesn’t really apply to them, but “pleasure” does. Good and constructive loves, however, carry both joy and pleasure within them.

      When you notice and see what gives you the most joy and/or pleasure when you do it, you have gotten a line on your ruling love.

      • Chad says:

        Thank you very much for your thoughts, Lee! I reflected on the test you suggested I ask myself, and the answer is clear for me: that I get the most joy and pleasure from being kind, loving, helpful and neighborly to others, even if I sometimes fall short of the mark. I once held an elevator door open for a woman who seemed to be in a hurry. She was so, so thankful for my assistance, and it honestly left a warm and fuzzy feeling in me afterwards. We got off on different floors, but I reflected on that interaction for a while, and still do occasionally today. That time on the elevator, and those times I’ve helped a customer find a product they were looking for, led me to a conclusion about myself: being and doing good just, well, feels good in its own right. It made me immensely happy that I was able to help those people out, to brighten their day and make them happy. Indeed, it would be accurate to say that I felt their joy as my own, as Swedenborg said. Of course, dealing with jerks sometimes leaves me with a gruff, even cold, exterior (and let’s face it, at times life can be very, very stressful), but I look back on the times I was able to brighten others’ lives or help them out with great fondness, and look forward for those chances to again present themselves.

        God Bless,

        Chad

        • Lee says:

          Hi Chad,

          Sounds like you have your answer!

          About dealing with jerks, there is such a thing as developing spiritual (or psychological) “calluses” to protect ourselves from sharp and chafing encounters with people who are not nice, or who just happen to be in a bad mood. That’s what the term “thick-skinned” refers to.

  26. Linus says:

    Whenever I have to make a moral choice, my first impulse is to the the bad thing, to be selfish and to do whatever will benefit me the most. But in the end I do the right thing just because “it’s the right thing and that’s what I should do”. People say that I am a good person, but I really don’t think I am. I think I do good things just because I’m afraid of being punished if I do what is wrong, but I have a constant desire of doing what is wrong. My desires and my actions don’t match. I’m afraid in the afterlife this will come out. People will see that I’m actually pretty greedy and selfish and I only do the right thing after an internal struggle. Further, I don’t feel joy in doing good. I feel empty and I immediately regret it and wish I had done the selfish thing, not the selfless one. I kind of want and don’t want to do good. I care and I don’t. And in the end I feel like a fool. I care about people’s feelings even though they never care about mine. I help people but they don’t help me. I’m getting tired of being selfless in the surface and I often fantasize about how better my life would be if I cared only about myself and acted according to what I really want to do. I can’t see how a person like me will go to Heaven if in the afterlife our masks fall and everyone will see the real me. And one more thing: even though I often do good things just because it’s the right thing I also do bad things sometimes if I know that I can get away with it. I used to regret it, but nowadays I’m not so sure. Is there hope for me? I don’t know if I have enough strength of character to keep doing good.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Linus,

      Thanks for stopping by and telling your story. Yes, there is hope for you. But as you’re finding out, the path to heaven is not an easy one—not because it’s intrinsically hard, but because there is so much in our self that resists it and wants to go in the opposite direction.

      The good news is that as human beings, we have the ability to compartmentalize our thinking from our desires, and to use our thinking mind to force ourselves to go in the direction we decide we want to go. This is an ability that no lower animal has. For a related article, please see:

      Noah’s Ark: A Sea Change in the Human Mind

      We all start out in life as infants entirely wrapped up in ourselves and our own wants, needs, and desires. And it takes a lifetime to grow out of that self-centeredness. However, unlike physical growth, this sort of spiritual growth does not happen automatically. We have to make a conscious choice to change our course from selfishness to love for other people and for God. The good news is that we do have a lifetime to do the work required to make that change. And if our life ends early, God is merciful and loving, and will accept us into heaven if we were at least making a sincere effort to go in the right direction, even if we didn’t always succeed.

      So don’t give up. You have a choice about what sort of person you want to be. Choosing the downward path of self-centeredness and wrong behavior may feel good in the moment, but it only leads to misery. Choosing the upward path of thinking of others and loving others as much as we love ourselves may seem hard and distasteful in the moment, but it leads to an inner joy and self-respect even when our outward circumstances may be hard.

      Your situation of wanting to do what is wrong and having to force yourself to do what’s right is part of the human condition, especially in the earlier parts of our spiritual path. But keep at it, and in time God will replace your current sense of pleasure in wrong behavior with a repugnance to acting badly, and will replace your current feeling of emptiness and distaste at doing the right thing with a sense of satisfaction and pleasure in doing good and thoughtful things. If we do the work of doing the right thing in our outward behavior, God will replace our heart of stone with a heart of flesh (see Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26). It won’t happen all at once. But if you persist in your efforts, there will come a day when you enjoy doing what is right, and you can hardly imagine doing what is wrong.

      Meanwhile, here is another article that you may find relevant to your current struggles:

      Spiritual Growth 101 with Mike Tyson: “The Virtue of Selfishness”

      I hope this helps. Feel free to continue the conversation if you have further thoughts or questions.

  27. Linus says:

    Thanks for the help, I appreciate it. I’ll read both articles.

  28. Bethany says:

    Thanks for answering my question on sins:)
    I’m glad you don’t believe we have to be perfect to go to heaven because I’ve never met a perfect person lol. I had one other question or a curiosity, some have recently said that Sampson’s riddle where he eats the honey out of the Lions carcass is a foreshadow for Christ’s sacrifice your thoughts on that?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Bethany,

      You’re welcome. I hope it helps.

      And no, I certainly don’t think we have to be perfect to go to heaven. If that were so, heaven would be totally empty! About this, please see:

      The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 4: God Condemns Us to Hell Because We’re Not Perfect?

      And yes, everything in the Scriptures tells us about what Christ did for us, as Jesus himself said in Luke 24:25–27, 44–45.

      Samson, like other good leaders in the Old Testament, represents Christ, and his power to save us and lead us. A lion in a good sense represents the power of truth, but in a negative sense the power of falsity. Samson killing the lion represents Christ saving us from the power of false teachings that would otherwise kill our spiritual life. The swarm of bees and honey that then appeared in the lion’s body represents the sweetness of living a good life when Christ has saved us from the power of our former false ideas and beliefs.

      To apply this to your earlier question and your situation, the false teaching put forward especially by Protestant preachers, that God rejects us if we are not perfect, has been tearing down and destroying your spiritual life, causing you great anxiety. But Jesus teaches us that on the contrary, God loves everyone, both the good and the evil alike:

      You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43–45)

      If you listen to the beautiful teaching of Jesus in the Gospel, that God loves and sends blessings upon all of his children, both the good and the evil (it is evil people who reject God, not God who rejects evil people), then it will save you from the false teachings of the so-called “Christian” leaders of today, who deny Jesus’ teaching and say that God rejects people if they commit even the slightest sin. These “Christians” have abandoned the teachings of the Lord in the Bible, and substituted man-made doctrines.

      If, instead of listening to them, you take to heart the beautiful truth that Jesus teaches us in the Gospels, you can overcome your anxiety, and taste the sweetness of living a good life of loving God above all, and loving your neighbor as yourself, just as Jesus taught us.

      • Bethany says:

        Thanks again for your insights on Sampson’s riddle very interesting. I think legalism has plagued the church just as much in churches as well I like reading fantasy novels and books about fictional magic and ghost stories,watching horror movies and the such and you see people saying that’s sin and some say it’s not (I personally dont think it is. The biggest confusion for me is how people say you’ll become demon possessed if you practice yoga or meditation? That sounds crazy!?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Bethany,

          Yoga and meditation have nothing to do with demons and evil spirits. The people who say such things are simply ignorant of spiritual realities.

          Personally, I don’t like to have the stuff they put in horror flicks bouncing around in my head. I mostly avoid that genre, and I don’t particularly recommend it for other people, either. However, it seems to help some people to face their fears, so it isn’t necessarily all bad. Further, demonic imagery by itself isn’t going to drag you down to hell. These are depictions and symbolic representations of hellish states of mind and heart. They show us the nature of evil, and ideally serve as a warning for us not to indulge our evil thoughts and desires and engage in evil actions and ways of life that would lead us down that path.

          As for magic, fantasy, and so on, most such movies and novels are based on the perennial issue of the struggle between good and evil. The Israelites of biblical times were not allowed to engage in magical practices because the people of those days were largely materialistic and unspiritual in their thinking, and would have been dragged off to “the dark side” if they had started engaging in magical practices. Even today, for most people it’s not such a good idea to dabble in magic and spirit contacts. Most people simply don’t have the spiritual foundation and knowledge required to handle these things in a good and healthy way. However, watching movies and reading novels about fantasy and magic is not the same as engaging it it in real life.

          For an article that deals with some of these issues in a little more depth, please see:
          How Imagination and Fantasy Help our Spiritual Growth

  29. Luna says:

    What if you want to be a good person, but evil thoughts keep coming into your head. I would never, ever, EVER act on these thoughts but I feel so guilty that they come into my head. Will I go to hell for these thoughts and how do I stop them from coming into my mind (if that is possible.) And what are the steps to becoming a better person, because personally I believe that everyone can have a change of heart, no matter how evil they once were. I think for many of the people who are now in hell, it is because they didn’t know how to be anything other then evil. They couldn’t recognize their evils and repent from them or recognize their actions were wrong. So I think what I’m asking, aside from the question above is what are the exact steps you have to take to become a person with a good heart?

    (From my friend, Alice)

    • Lee says:

      Hi Luna,

      For your friend Alice, please have her read this article, which I linked for you before, and which I think you’ve already read:

      What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?

      If she is an atheist or agnostic, she might not want to do the “God” part, and the step-by-step method given there won’t be quite as effective. However, if she follows the rest of it, it will still work. The basic idea is to stop doing things that are wrong and hurtful, and start doing things that are good and helpful instead.

      About the evil thoughts, once again, we can’t control the thoughts that flit into our head any more than we can control the birds that flit into our yard. The primary way to discourage bad thoughts is not to act upon them. Also, not to dwell on them, but let them flit back out of your mind, like the birds flitting back out of your yard. It is a trick of evil spirits to put bad thoughts into our head, get us to focus on them, and then make us feel all guilty about them. If we don’t focus on them or dwell on them, and recognize that they’re not really ours or from us, but are coming from somewhere else and invading our mind, then we don’t have to get all guilty about them. The most important thing is what we do and how we live. The thoughts that flit through our head are less important.

      Of course, if it’s sexual thoughts, then they are not going to go away if she has no outlet for her sexual drives and desires. In that case, she will need to find some way to satisfy those drives and desires. If she has no steady partner, I would recommend masturbation over sleeping around or engaging in other more questionable sexual practices. There are several articles here about masturbation, which you’ll find if you search for them in the search box.

      Oh, and about hell, no one is there just because they didn’t know how to be anything other than evil. Only people who consciously and intentionally choose to live an evil life, as adults, when they could have chosen to live a good life, will go to hell. For more on hell, please see:

      Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?

  30. Luna says:

    How much do we have to love money, power and pleasure to go to hell?

    Personally, I enjoy money and personal pleasure but not at the expense of others and also not above my friends and family. Actually, I prefer to enjoy personal pleasures and money with my friends and family, whether it’s be by using money to invite them to go somewhere or letting them join in on whatever I am doing, whether it’s be going to an amusement park, the restaurant or the mall, etc. Will that still get me sent to hell?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Luna,

      Loving money, possessions, pleasures, and so on is not wrong as long as we don’t put them first. It is only when we love money, possessions, power, and pleasure more than we love our fellow human beings, and more than we love God, that it becomes wrong and evil. Here is the proper order of priority of loves, according to Swedenborg:

      1. Love of God
      2. Love of other people
      3. Love of material possessions
      4. Love of self

      As long as we keep things in this order in our priorities, all four of them are good and necessary loves. But when the bottom two usurp the position of the top two, and become primary in our life, then we are like upside-down people, and then love of material possessions and pleasures and of ourselves become destructive and evil.

      There is nothing at all wrong with enjoying money and personal pleasure with our friends and family as long as they are innocent and healthful pleasures, and as long as we don’t harm and oppress other people, and violate God’s laws, in order to enjoy those pleasures. In fact, it is good for us to enjoy the good things in life. That’s why God gave them to us. It helps our mind to relax and recuperate from the stresses of work so that we can return refreshed and ready for a new day or a new week.

      For a compact explanation of healthy love of self, see Swedenborg’s The New Jerusalem #9798. (The links are to my translation, published under the title The Heavenly City: A Spiritual Guidebook.)

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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