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.
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
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:
- Ezekiel 18: God’s Message of Hope . . . If You Think there’s No Hope for You
- Is it Easy or Hard to Get to Heaven?
- How Can a Criminal Get to Heaven?
- What is the Unpardonable Sin? Am I Doomed?
- What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?
- Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth
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
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?”
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
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.
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.
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:
And about hell, please see:
Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?
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?
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!
Thanks for your thoughts. Some thoughts in response:
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.
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.
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.
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 ?
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?
What do I do. I feel myself slipping away of Niagara Falls like u said
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:
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.
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?
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
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!
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!!!:)
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.
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
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.
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…
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!
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
You’re welcome. Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. Godspeed on your spiritual journey.
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.
May Jesus give you the strength to climb out of that abyss.
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!
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.
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.
No, but thanks for trying. I can’t imagine how many comments you get daily.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes, I agree. Thank you.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for the help, I appreciate it. I’ll read both articles.
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?
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:
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.
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!?
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
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)
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?
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?
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:
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 #97–98. (The links are to my translation, published under the title The Heavenly City: A Spiritual Guidebook.)
Could you elaborate on what you mean by dishonoring our parents? What counts and what doesn’t?
For a little more on the commandment to honor our father and mother, please see its section in this article:
The Ten Commandments: Our Spiritual Inventory List
In general, in its literal meaning, dishonoring our parents means not listening to our parents, disobeying them, and being defiant and insulting toward them. By extension, it means acting in this disobedient and defiant way toward other people in whose care we are, such as guardians, teachers, and ministers, or who are in positions of authority over us, such as our boss at work. Parents and others in a parental or leadership role have as their job caring for us and raising us and teaching us right from wrong, and making sure we live, act, and do our job the right way. If we reject and defy their guidance and discipline, and persist in doing wrong and destructive things contrary to their parental or leadership role in relation to us, then that is especially what is meant by dishonoring our parents.
For a discussion of what to do if we have, or had, bad parents, and how this relates to the commandment to honor our father and mother, please see:
Can I be Saved if I Hate my Mother?
But, to what extent does it have to be? By disobeying them do you mean like disobeying them when it comes to like chores you did or does it have to be more serious?
As with all of the commandments, there are more and less serious violations of the commandment to honor our father and our mother. Yes, disobeying them when it comes to doing the chores is a violation, though not necessarily the most serious violation. A much more serious violation would be, say, stealing money from their wallet and using it to do something that they have forbidden. And most serious would be flagrantly violating their guidance and their rules, and engaging in all sorts of wrong and destructive behavior.
Does not repenting form those lesser violations still send you to hell?
Only if it sets a pattern, and sets a person on a path of persistently doing the wrong thing. People who spend their whole lives engaging in low-level, petty wrong behavior will go to a mild part of hell, but yes, they will be in hell because they lived a life of continually doing wrong things when they were perfectly capable of doing good things instead. Even though they weren’t doing big wrong things, their years of being petty and annoying and avoiding willingly doing even simple tasks to lend a hand and help make things better for the people around them shows that they have a selfish heart. It’s that selfish heart that will carry them into one of the milder hells after they die.
Does that mean I will go to hell? Sometimes I do these things such as pranking friends or not doing some things like washing the dishes, etc, and sometimes it is for selfish reasons. I don’t want to go to hell but will this send me to hell if I don’t stop?
If so, is there anyway I can stop because it has become kind of a habit.
Harmless pranks among friends won’t send you to hell if it’s all in good fun. But if they’re mean pranks meant to hurt and embarrass people, that’s not good at all, and must stop.
About not doing your chores, God gave you a will and a thinking mind, and the ability to use them to make yourself do what you know is right, even when you would rather not. I would advise you to exercise that choice and power of will now, while you are still young, so that it doesn’t become a lifelong habit. Make yourself do the dishes even when you don’t want to. Over time, it will stop seeming so unpleasant, and you might even start enjoying being helpful. If nothing else, you will feel better about yourself, and won’t be so afraid of going to hell! 😛
Speaking of those chores:
Will lying get you into hell? If so, wouldn’t everyone be screwed because it is shown that on average we lie about 10 times a day?
Lying can get you into hell, especially if it’s to deceive and take advantage of people, or to avoid taking responsibility for your own actions. Little white lies won’t send people to hell if their overall life is good. But it’s still best to get into the habit of telling the truth.
What counts as white lies? I’m worried that I might be headed on a path towards hell because I do lie a lot, but not the types of lies that will hurt people. I mean sometimes I lie just to keep my secrets safe. Does that mean I am headed to hell?
Keep in mind that the commandment is not “Thou shalt not lie,” but “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” In other words, the lies that are absolutely forbidden are lies that will cause damage to people.
Protecting your secrets does not hurt people, assuming they aren’t secrets about your doing some crime or bad deed that you’re trying to get away with.
Also, keep in mind that remaining silent is often the best option. There’s no need to blurt out everything that’s on your mind, and air all of your secret thoughts to the whole world. Doing that is like walking around town with no clothes on and displaying your naked body for everyone to see. There are gossips and bad people out there who will point and laugh and take advantage of your nakedness, not to mention taking lots of pictures that will be on the Internet forever. That’s why we have to wear clothes in public.
In the same way, it’s best to “keep your clothes on” in what you say to people about yourself. In particular, don’t post all of your secret thoughts on social media. It will come back to haunt you when, for example, you’re applying for a job, and the potential employer looks
up your Internet profile.
Keeping your secrets hidden is not lying. It’s protecting yourself from people who would use them to blackmail you and socially rape you and hurt you in other ways. So keep you clothes on in public, both physically and mentally. Don’t make yourself vulnerable to that sort of abuse.
How can people in heaven live with the fact that some of their closest family members, maybe even parents, are in hell?
I know what I am about to say will be hard for you to accept now, while your whole life is wrapped up in your biological family and your friends at school and in the neighborhood. But I have to say it anyway in order to answer your question.
When we first die, we recognize all of our family members and friends, and we reconnect with them and get together with them. But as time goes by in the spiritual world, we start to see their true inner self, and they start to see ours. If their true self is compatible with ours, and ours with theirs, we will stay together with them. But if our inner character and theirs are incompatible with each other, we will separate from them, and each go our own way. And over time, we will forget that we were related to them.
This is what happens when one family member goes to heaven, and another goes to hell. Neither one of them thinks about the other anymore, or remembers their former earthly and biological relationship to each other.
In the spiritual world, our brothers and sisters are the people who share our deepest loves and thoughts. There, we have a new family, which may or may not include some of our earthly family members and friends. And we will be closer to our spiritual brothers and sisters than it was possible to be with our family and friends here on earth, because we will be able to share our deepest thoughts and feelings with them in a way that we couldn’t herd on earth.
Meanwhile, in heaven, everyone looks to God as their common Father (and Mother), which is why all the people who live there are brothers and sisters to each other.
But how can we just abandon the people who have taught us everything they know and who have been with us through everything? Especially in Asian cultures, we are with our parents our whole life. How can we just forget them?
Even in Asian cultures, there comes a time when our grandparents and our parents die, and we are no longer under their direct tutelage and guidance. For a related article, please see:
What Does it Mean When My Parents Die? Will I See Them Again?
Also, if some family member of ours goes to hell instead of heaven, we haven’t abandoned them; rather, they have abandoned us, and turned their back on us.
But assuming your family members are good people, there actually is a good chance you’ll live near or with them even in the afterlife. That’s because you’ll have a similar heart, and similar thoughts. It’s just that you’ll no longer relate to each other as parents and children, but rather as brothers and sisters.
Once again, I know this is hard to accept when you’re still here on earth, and young, and heavily embedded in your family relationships. However, your parents themselves, if they are good parents, want you to grow up to be a self-responsible adult who pulls your own weight in the family and in the community and culture. They do think about what your life will be like after they die. They want you to be able to continue to live as a good and happy person even without them, so that you can continue to have a good life with your family and community.
If you are able to do this, then you will not be disappointing or abandoning your parents. You will be making them proud and happy that you are their daughter, and that they were able to raise you to be a good woman who is able to stand on her own two feet.
What if you are lying to cover up something you are ashamed of? Something you have done in the past that you don’t want people to know about you because it was that bad?
If we’ve done something in the past, but we’re not doing it anymore, as the saying goes, sometimes it’s best to “let sleeping dogs lie.” No need to stir up the past when you’ve moved beyond it and no good would come from digging it up again. As it says in the Bible:
If you are no longer doing what you did in the past, it may be best just to leave it in the past.
The main reason to dig up past wrongs would be if you hurt someone by what you said or did, they are still hurting because of it, and you need to apologize and make amends as best you can. But if it was some private wrong you did, and it didn’t really affect anyone else, or if you did hurt someone but they’ve moved beyond it, and no good would come from digging it up again, then it is not wrong not to talk about it. If you have guilty feelings and you need to talk to someone about it, then find someone you trust, and talk to them about it in confidence.
As for lying about it, perhaps that may be necessary in some cases. It all depends upon the situation. But as I said before, sometimes the best thing is just to keep your mouth shut. We all have things we’ve done in the past that we’re ashamed and embarrassed about. Just because someone asks you a personal question, that doesn’t mean you have to take off all your clothes in front of them and let them examine your naked body. They’re not your doctor. You don’t have to tell them all your intimate details. You don’t need their opinion or judgment about what you have done. And you don’t want to give them the opportunity to gossip about you to their friends and spill all your secrets. They have their secret sins, too. Really, it’s none of their business, and you can tell them so, or just not answer.
If someone is in a position that gives them the right to ask for such personal information, then you may have to make a hard decision about whether to tell them, or whether to withhold that information. Life can be complicated. Even people who technically do have the right to examine us may abuse that information. Sometimes we have to protect ourselves even if it means going into a moral gray area about lying vs. telling the truth. Once again, remember that the commandment is not “Thou shalt not lie,” but “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”
We wear clothes for a reason. Your private parts are your own, including the private parts of your life. You don’t have to show them to people. In fact it’s best not to show them to people unless there is a very good reason to do so. If you don’t tell people about every intimate, embarrassing, and shameful detail of your life, that’s not lying. It’s maintaining your basic human dignity and self-respect.
Nakedness, in a negative sense, means having our wrong desires, thoughts, and actions exposed to other people’s eyes, and the shame and embarrassment we feel when that happens. Clothing represents our self-respect and dignity as a person. It covers things we don’t want people to see, and that they have no need or right to see.
I don’t know if I am willing to give up my life for anyone. Does that mean I am selfish and going to hell?
There would have to be an extreme situation for you to face that decision. Most of the time it’s more a matter of whether we will act only for our own self-interest, or whether we will act in a way that benefits other people as well as ourselves. In this sense, “giving up our life” means giving up our selfish life.
What about businessmen? Businessmen commonly have to lie to actually sell things because it’s their job and their way of earning money. Will they go to hell for lying?
If a businessman has to lie to sell things, then he should consider switching to selling something that he doesn’t have to lie about. If a product is good, you don’t have to lie to sell it.
In heaven, are we forced to love God as our Father? No offense, but I would rather love the parents who made me who I am, even if God did create the people they descended
In heaven, you are not forced to do anything. People in heaven live and love out of their own free will.
The reason people in heaven love God as their common parent is that God actually is the parent of us all. God created not only the people your parents descended from, but also your parents themselves, and of course, God created you as well. God gave you the parents you have, and God gave you to them as their child. Everything we have, and everyone we love, is a gift from God.
In heaven, we do love the people we live with very deeply. It goes beyond anything we can feel while we are living here on earth, because we are then in our spiritual body, and living in the light of the spiritual sun, which makes everything much clearer, deeper, and warmer than it can be here on earth.
Within that spiritual sun is God. In heaven, we feel God’s love just as we feel the warmth of the sun on our skin, and we see God’s wisdom just as we see the light of the sun shining on everything around us. There, it is very clear that everything we have, and everything we are, is a gift from God, and that all of the people we love are also gifts from God. That is why angels, especially the highest angels, love God above all, and love God as their Father, and in the highest heavens, as their Mother as well.
This doesn’t take anything away from our love for our spiritual family in heaven. Rather, it makes that love for our spiritual brothers and sisters, and for our spiritual husband or wife, even greater.
Is everyone the same age in heaven?
And also, do we have to think of everyone as brothers and sisters or can we still continue to see our parents as mother and father, our siblings as brother and sister, and everyone else, kind strangers or something?
And is their a punishment for not loving God as your Mother or Father?
Although I am not sure about this, I think I will still love my mother and father more than God. Will I get punished for that?
No, you won’t get punished for that. Not everyone is able to put God first in their heart and in their life. But if we put other people first in our heart and life (what Jesus calls “loving our neighbor”) then that is perfectly acceptable to God. It’s only when we love ourselves most of all, and don’t care about anyone else, that we will suffer punishment in the afterlife.
In heaven, age has no meaning, because there is not time as we experience it here on earth. Physically, though, everyone in heaven has the body of a young adult, meaning their body is at its healthiest and most vigorous. That is so even if they were born thousands of years ago in earth time.
Once again, in heaven we are not forced to do anything, or to think in any particular way. We are free to think and love based on what’s in our heart. It’s just that in heaven, our former biological relationships don’t really have any meaning because we are in the spiritual world, not the material world. However, even in heaven there are people who are wiser and less wise, so that some people look up to other people for help and guidance. It’s not impossible that you would have that sort of relationship with your parents in heaven. But if you do, it would be because they developed greater wisdom in their lifetime than you did in yours.
Still, I think they would probably want you to develop wisdom yourself as you grow in years, so that once they are gone, you are able to guide your own footsteps on a good path. Then, when you rejoin them in heaven, they will rejoice in the person you have become, and relate to you more as an equal than as a parent.
And don’t worry about getting punished for not loving God as your Mother and Father. You’re still young. These things will work themselves out in time. For now, loving your mother and father here on earth, honoring them, listening to them, and doing the dishes when they tell you to do the dishes, is a good thing. Remember, God gave you your parents, and God wants you to honor and love your parents.
But what if even in the afterlife I still love my parents are mother and father. It just seems wrong to love them in any other way. I don’t think it will just be worked out because I want to love my parents as my parents and not anything else.
None of us knows the future, or what our future self will be. That’s why I can’t really answer this question, except to say that only time will tell.
If our parents go to hell does that mean we’ll never see them again after the world of spirits?
Well . . . yes. But do you really think that your parents are going to hell? If they were, they would be bad people who were causing you all manner of hurt and pain. People who have that kind of parents usually can’t wait to get free of them, and are very relieved to know that there will come a time when they will never have to see or think about their parents again.
Well I am not sure, but I am scared that they are.
Here are some sins they may or may not have committed:
Having bad views towards some types of people
Being rather aggressive when someone does something bad to them (like if someone shouting at them on the road and pointing the middle finger at them they might purposely crash their car)
Sometimes not helping the people who need it most in our society
Will this send them to hell?
Also, sometimes when I make a mistake, they say something like “how could you be so stupid” or “ why are you so dumb” but not in a serious tone. You can tell through their tone that they don’t really mean it and they’re just teasing you but also a tiny bit frustrated. Does that count as a sin?
That’s just being human. Not everything we say and do is perfect. Sometimes the things we say and do even hurt people. But if in our heart we aren’t intending to hurt people by our words and actions, then they will not be held against us spiritually, even if they may cause some problems for us and for other people here on earth.
Besides, when they say these things to you, are you being stupid and dumb? 😀 Sometimes we just have to take the teasing and the criticism, and let it be a motivation for us not to make the same mistake again.
Nobody is perfect. That applies to your parents as well. God is the only one who loves everyone equally. We humans can aspire to that, but most of us fall well short of the mark. Intolerance and racism is a common scourge of humankind. We are only very gradually overcoming it. Many people in the older generations were brought up with it, and probably won’t be able to overcome it in themselves.
The bigger question is whether your parents generally devote their lives to doing good for other people, and serving them in their jobs and in their daily lives, or whether their entire life is focused on getting pleasure and possessions for themselves and their own family, and building up their own sense of power and reputation in the world, such that they don’t care about the well-being of anyone else.
As for helping poor people, that is something we can choose to do if we want to, and it is a good thing to do. But serving the people around us on a daily basis in our job and in our neighborhood is what’s most important. When we provide goods and services to other people, and contribute to the economy, we are helping people not to be poor. So really, we are helping the poor even if we aren’t consciously intending to if we simply do good work and serve people well in our regular career or occupation, not to mention in any volunteer work that we may be involved in.
Now as for crashing their car because someone gives them the finger . . . that’s just not smart! 😛
You said that going to hell is a choice, so what if you do things like lie but you still would be willing to give that up to go to heaven if that is what it took? Would you go to heaven or hell?
If you would be willing to give up lying in order to get to heaven, I would strongly advise you to give it up now, and not wait until after you die. You may think you would be willing to give up lying in order to go to heaven, but if you keep right on lying all your life, then you’ve already made your choice, and you won’t change it after you die.
I’m sorry if this question is out of place, i had no idea where to ask it, so i decided on the article that introduced me to this website. (I hope thats alright!) Also i apologize for any spelling/grammatical errors, english isn’t my native language.
My question is about the horror genre, it’s actually where my fear of going to hell started.
I’m a person who is very interested in the horror genre. (Movies, games, stories ect.) I am also very interested in documentaries about murderers/ incidents. (Altough i don’t like movies or games that deal with demons or that sort of thing, as religion is a touchy subject for me)
My question is this, is it a sin to be interested in these sorts of things? Personally i don’t think so, but im scared i might be wrong. Of course, i would never think about hurting another person and i don’t agree with the views of any murderer/seriel killer. I mostly like horror stories because they usually give an indepth perspective on the human psyche. Im always fascinated by the things that can lead to a person to do horrible things or how people react in life or death situations. Odly, i fell like, documenteries for example, have helped me feel a little more empathetic towards people in general, as you never know what drives people to do what they do (even if that thing is horrible) and what the side of their story looks like. (Games/movies about people being trapped in life or death games are the best example for this, they are also my favorites)
I also like understanding how horror movies are made. (Especially the funny, badly made ones lol) The specially effects, writing, ect. its all so interesting to me. Im usually not scared my them, as i understand that they aren’t real. And for me they are usually a fun way to spend time togather with friends/family.
I have become such a fan of horror, that ive decided to give writing horror stories a try and that’s where my fears of going to hell started again. I’ve asked God for advice and from what i feel, i think he’s telling me that what im doing is ok, but then again im not sure, maybe that’s just what i want to belive? I wanted to ask you for advice, as i really agree with your views on this site and i feel like you might have a bigger understanding on this sort of thing.
I apologize if this question seems odd, im rather young (Do not wish to specify my age) so things like this are confusing to me, my interest in horror is a big part of my personality/interests. Im also sorry if its too long, but i’ve been struggling with this for a long time, and would really like to recive an answer.
Thank you in advanced if you respond to this!
Thanks for stopping by, and for your good question. You’re not the first person to ask!
First, the short answer:
No, it is not a sin to be interested in or fascinated by the horror genre, or even to write horror novels, screenplays, games, and so on. There is no Commandment that says, “Thou shalt not enjoy horror.”
Now for the long answer.
Evil is real. Pretending it isn’t doesn’t make it go away. Instead of hiding from that fact, it is better for us to have a clear understanding of what evil is, and what its effects are.
Personally, I don’t much like horror. I don’t want that imagery bouncing around in my head. But that’s just a personal preference. I know that many people love it. Does that make them evil sinners? I don’t think so, any more than I think that because the police deal with criminals all the time, that makes the police evil.
In order to be a police officer, you must be able to deal with human evil in many different forms. But your job as a police officer is to understand and contain that evil, meaning to lessen evil rather than to increase it. Some people do become police officers because they are fascinated by human evil. But they have decided to put that fascination to good use by devoting their lives to protecting the innocent from being harmed by people who engage in evil. (This is assuming they are good, not corrupt, police officers.)
In other words, interest in evil is not by itself evil. Rather, our response to the evil is what makes us good or evil. If we glory in it and engage in it ourselves, then of course we do become evil ourselves. But if we recognize it as evil, see its true quality, and make the decision not to engage in it ourselves precisely because it is evil and wrong, then we become good people, not evil people.
Where the horror genre comes in, I believe, is in examining and portraying the true nature of evil, especially psychological evil. And if we don’t understand the true nature of evil, then we will be nowhere near as effective as we could be in combating evil.
Here are two principles that I use in evaluating any novel, movie, or other work of fiction, or even non-fiction such as documentaries, that deal with evil:
If the answer to the first question is yes, and the answer to the second question is no, then it may be a good novel, movie, game, or other fictional work—assuming it actually is good, and not a cheap piece of schlock! But if the answer to the first question is no, and to the second question is yes, then that is a bad movie, because it doesn’t tell the truth about evil, and it may encourage people to live an evil and destructive life that leads nowhere good.
This is why, for example, I don’t think much of the video game Grand Theft Auto. From what I know of it, it makes crime out to be exciting and sexy. That’s not a good message to send. Having said that, I do recognize that it’s just a game, and that people who play Grand Theft Auto aren’t likely to go out and steal cars in real life. Still, it seems to me to be a rather dirty and unsavory game.
As for horror, even though I myself don’t like it much, I would apply the same questions to it. Does it paint an accurate picture of evil? And does it not present evil as something that would be a desirable choice in life? I don’t know the horror genre very well, but I presume that as in other genres, some horror flicks are better, and some are worse, not just in their execution, but in their accuracy in portraying human evil, and in their attitude toward it.
Also, I’m not saying that every horror novel or movie has to have a neat moral at the end: “Don’t do evil!” Rather, does it explore the phenomenon of human evil, and give readers and viewers something to think about regarding the nature of evil, and its effects upon people?
And yes, as you say, exploring horror, crime documentaries, and so on can give us greater empathy and understanding of people who are caught up in evil. It’s not always easy to tell from the outside appearance whether a person actually does have an evil heart. For a related post on this blog, please see:
Lee Boyd Malvo: Human Justice vs. Divine Justice
Based on all of this, I don’t believe that it is evil or sinful for you to be interested in horror, and even to write horror, as long as you keep a clear head about it, and don’t succumb to the mystique of evil yourself. Many people enjoy the genre. That doesn’t mean they’re bad people; just that they’re interested in the darker side of existence, and especially the darker side of the human psyche. If you write horror that explores that dark side of the human psyche in a way that is “truthful,” in the sense of presenting the nature of evil as it really is, even if in a fictionalized form, and not romanticizing it or making it out to be glorious and fun, that can help people to face the evil side of their own psyche so that they don’t succumb to it or become victims of it.
I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to continue the conversation here if you have further thoughts or questions. And yes, since I don’t have an article here about the horror genre, this post about the fear of hell is as good a place as any to talk about it.
Speaking of hell, here’s another article you might be interested in, if you haven’t seen it already:
Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?
Thank you so much for the quick reponse!
I am relieved to hear that your thoughts are the same as mine of this subject.
I agree that horror fans should be careful around the things they watch/create/communities they interact with. There are a few cases where people try to recreate the things they’ve seen/heard and honestly, thats a scary thing to think about. But im glad that most (with very few exceptions) horror fans/ people in the true crime community aren’t like that.
I do have a few other questions to ask, if your willing to answer then of course
1) Do you think theres horror movies and other such things in heaven.
For example, horror movies, hunting, fishing ect? Things that while containing evil, aren’t really evil, but are.. kind of morally gray if you think about it? Most of my life i’ve been taught/tought that life isn’t really black or white but gray. That evil and good coexist with each other in life. (For an example a lion can’t eat without killing it’s pray) And i guess understanding a place where one is without the other (heaven/hell) is a bit confusing for me.
2) Do things that are created on Earth appear/be created in Heaven or Hell?
For example a writer writes a book that they are proud of, when they die (and lets say they go to Heaven) will their work also be there? Or will they have to start from square one, rewritting everything?
Thank you again in advanced if you respont!
Also, i forgot to ask this, But what about the “sinning in your heart” like Matthew 5:27-30? I know you’ve covered Matthew 5:27-30, but i’ve heard other people say writing/being enternained by sin (horror) is the same as sinning, i don’t think it is, but if you could give me your thoughts on it i’d be very greatful!
The Greek word for “lust” in Matthew 5:28 is a very strong word. It doesn’t mean idle fantasies or even thinking that a woman looks mighty fine. Rather, it is a burning desire that will lead a person to actually commit that sin (in this case adultery), if the person can find or make an opportunity to do so. If there is no desire or intent to act upon it, it is not “lust” as that word is used in the Bible, and it is not sin. Here is another article that might be helpful to you:
How Imagination and Fantasy Help our Spiritual Growth
You’re welcome. Glad you found my thoughts helpful. In answer to these questions:
1) I doubt that there will be horror movies and novels in heaven, and certainly not in the higher heavens. Unlike on earth, heaven is not a mix of good and evil. It is not perfectly good. Only God is perfectly good. But before people go to heaven, any remaining major wrong thoughts and behaviors are left behind, and before people go to hell, any remaining major good thoughts and behaviors are left behind. This is so that people can have a single mind, not a divided mind, and can live at peace with themselves.
As a result of this sorting out process, I don’t believe that angels in heaven will need the horror genre anymore, since they have already made the choice for good, and their major evils have already been overcome. For them, therefore, seeing movies or reading books that delved into themes of major human evil would not only be unnecessary, but very depressing, and would cast a pall on their happy lives in heaven.
Having said that, there are some angels whose job is to serve as the spiritual world equivalent of prison guards. They monitor the goings-on in hell, and intervene if things get too far out of hand, to bring things back into some semblance of order. In a sense, these angels do see the spiritual world version of a horror movie. Hell itself, especially some segments of it, can be very much like a horror movie. In other words, some angels do deal with human evil of the types that are depicted in horror films and novels. I simply doubt that they would consume fictional horror genre pieces for entertainment.
2) Every book ever written here on earth also appears in the spiritual world. There are large libraries the spiritual world that contain these books. Swedenborg even speaks of books that authors wrote but that never made it into print existing in heaven. For example, he mentions letters of the Apostle Paul that are not in our New Testament, and that have been lost here on earth, but that are still in existence and available in the spiritual world.
Hello Lee! I hope im replying to the right comment and that you’ll see this.
Firstly, thank you for your response! I hope you will be willing to continue this conversation.
But im a bit confused, you say there probably will be no horror in Heaven, but then you say that every book written on Earth will be there? Isn’t that a little contradicting to your answer to the first question? What about books like Lord of the flies? Where, it’s not really horror, but could be considered as such? What about books about real life events?
Also, i am wondering how the book or other ‘works’ might ”work” if that makes sense. Most (if not every) story is based on good vs evil. (Heros beating the bad guys, hope overcoming despair ect.) If that ”evil” doesn’t exist, what would be the point of all the works/books? ,I hope you understand what i mean with this.
(Also, im not reffering to real life evil as in, hurting other people ect, more like the evil featured in stories.)
Secondly, im dispopinted in the fact there might not be any horror in Heaven, is that bad/a sin? Should i be worried? Of course, i would never want anyone to actually get hurt. (For example, seeing people in real life get hurt me queezy, yet made up fantasy horror doesn’t have the same effect on the because i know its not real. Don’t get me wrong, i still feel sad for the charecters, it’s just not the same as in real life) My interests are a big part of who i am, so much so that i feel as if my interest/caution in the “darker side” as you say, was given to be by God, i don’t know why, maybe its so i can be one of those guards you commented about of!
Also im saddaned by the fact that if i create something on Earth (I.E. a horror novel for example) i won’t be able to enjoy/share my creation for enernity. Im constatly thankful for my imagination/ability to create and it’s a big part of who i am. (Side note: should i also be worried about this?)
Altought i like to belive that because God is so loving and perfect, he’d figure everything out for me and every other horror lover out there haha
Yes, I suspect that if your interest in horror is sustained throughout your life, and is not just a passing phase as it often is for young people, then your job in heaven very likely will involve confronting and controlling human evil, either in relation to hell or in relation to new arrivals from earth in the “world of spirits,” which is the arrivals area of the spiritual world.
And haha, you got me about the books! Yes, all of the horror genre books and movies would exist in the spiritual world. But in addition to libraries in heaven, there are also libraries in the world of spirits, which, like earth, encompasses a mixture of good and evil. Perhaps even in some of the lower heavens there would be horror books and films in the libraries. I just doubt that the angels of the higher heavens would have much use for a genre that is so touched with evil.
I should also be clear that it’s not that there’s no evil in heaven. Not even the highest angels are perfect. Even they are continually engaged in learning and growing and setting aside remaining remnants of evil. And in the lower heavens, life seems to be fairly ordinary, almost like it is here on earth, except there are no selfish, greedy, and badly motivated people there. Everyone there has a good heart. But people in the lower heavens don’t have a well-developed spiritual life. Perhaps some of them would continue to enjoy the horror genre. I really don’t know.
It’s just that I think of horror as being useful in confronting and understanding human evil as part of our choice between good and evil during our lifetime here on earth. But in heaven, we’ve already made our choice for good. So I’m not sure what the usefulness of works of horror would be there.
This, by the way, is not something Swedenborg said. He didn’t talk about the horror genre, because aside from a few isolated works, it basically didn’t exist in his day. It wasn’t a cultural thing as it is today. So he didn’t comment on it. These, rather, are conclusions I’ve drawn based on my understanding of how the spiritual world and the human psyche works. It’s possible that I’m quite wrong about this.
And finally, no, you shouldn’t be worried about this, as long as in your life you are committed to loving and caring about and serving your fellow travelers here on earth. And from what you say, it sounds like you do indeed have compassion in your heart for your fellow human beings.
thank you for the responses!
Yea haha, didn’t mean to stump you with the book thing, i was just a bit confused is all!
Altought i do have one more question, that i hope you’ll be willing to answer.
Is it a sin/bad to do things, purely because you like them? To do things for yourself, for you? (I don’t mean that in a “Ha! Everybody move aside and bow to me! Im doing things for me, me me and i don’t care what happens to the rest of you!” but as in playing games just because you want to, going to the beach with family, buying yourself a threat, having “me” days, ect, ect.
I know that might sound a bit silly, but i’ve seen alot of religious folk say that if you do things for yourself just because you want to, your not thinking about God and thats a sin. I’ve even seen people say that having hobbies is a bad thing, because they turn you away from God? I don’t know which verse they normally use to justify this but it goes something like: “Everything you eat, everything you drink do it for the glory of God.” Is that true? or am i overthinking this a bit? I can kind of see where theya re coming from but i don’t know.
When i was younger (or even younger i guess haha) if people would as me what the meaning of life was i would say “To enjoy it and help others enjoy it, something or someone let us exist and we should be greatful and enjoy it.” but is that true? or am i being a bit selfish?
In your opinion, is it ok to not think about God all the time? I’ve found myself scared of going out with family or doing things i like just because i feel like it might be a sin, because im not constantly thinking about God. I pray everything before sleeping, thanking God for another day i’ve lived, things i’ve done ect. (My grandma suggested this) is that enough?
It’s just that, constantly thinking about these things brings up big anxiety in me, which is also why i don’t do stuff like read the Bible, because it actually kind of scares me. (Churches are nice tho) I was just wondering what you thought about this.
Also about Matthew 5:27-30, i’ve seen people to use it as a metaphor for other sins, like if angry at someone for something they did in your head, then you’ve already commitete wrath.
(Like thinking about sin is as bad as sinning)
Again, thank you if you answer this and apologies for so many questions haha!
In the Bible, there are not only lots of commandments not to do evil things. There are also festivals and feasts, Sabbaths of rest, and people singing and dancing. Yes, God is present in these festivals, feasts, and so on. But that doesn’t mean we have to think about God every moment of every day. As long as God is in the back of our mind, meaning we don’t go off the rails and do “fun” things that are stupid, dangerous, destructive, or just plain wrong, it is all good. God wants us to enjoy life and be happy. Why else would God promise us eternal bliss in heaven?
As long as we keep things in perspective and in the right priority, all things are here for our enjoyment and happiness. Specifically, here is the right order of priority for what we should love and focus on most of all in our life:
All of these are good, as long as they’re kept in the right order and priority in our mind and heart. It is only when self-love and love for material things become more important in our mind than love for our fellow human beings and love for God that they become wrong and evil. That’s when our attitude is, as you say, “It’s all about me, me, me, and I don’t care about the rest of you!” Then indulging ourselves becomes bad. But as long as we actually do care about other people, and seek to do God’s will in our life, then it is good to take time for ourselves, and have good times with our family and friends. Otherwise, we get too serious, we live a joyless life, and we are not receptive of the joy and happiness that God wants to give us.
As for those religious folks who think it’s a sin to have any fun, don’t listen to them. They are wrong. They do not have the true spirit of God in them, which is a spirit of love and joy, not of judging and condemnation.
Finally, yes, we can commit other sins in our heart as well. It happens when we have a strong, burning desire to do something that is wrong, such that if we aren’t afraid of the consequences, and if we can find or make an opportunity, we will go ahead and do it. This is true of burning murderous desires, desires to steal, deceive, and so on, not just of a burning desire to commit adultery.
Here is one of my friend’s list of sins.
“Here are all the sins I continue to commit to this day:
-Disobeying my parents to a very short extent
-Procrastination? (If that counts as a sin)
-Laziness to some extent
-Selfishness to some extent
-Being a bit rude to some people
-Having Bad Desires and Sinful Desires (I would never act on.)“
Will this be enough to send her to Hell? If so, what does she need to change and how can she change those things?
We could all make a similar list of sins. The real question is whether your friend is working on these bad habits of hers? Now that she recognizes that she has some character flaws and doesn’t always do the right thing, is she doing the work of becoming a better person? If so, then she is on her way to heaven, not to hell. But if she says to herself, “Well, that’s just who I am,” and doesn’t make any effort to do better and be a better person, then yes, these things could send her to hell, because she could have become a better person, but she chose not to.
Rather that trying to fix herself all up at once, I would suggest to your friend that she pick one or two of the items on her list, and focus her efforts on that one or two. For example, she could decide that she’s going to work on the first two items on her list: lying and disobeying her parents.
Once she’s picked one or two, then every time she is about to lie, or to disobey her parents (to use these two examples), she should say to herself, “I know I want to do this (lie or disobey), and that’s what I usually do, but this time I’m not going to do it. It is wrong, and I have decided that I don’t want be that kind of person anymore.” Then, instead of lying, she should make herself tell the truth, and instead of disobeying her parents, she should make herself obey them and do what they are asking her to do—or not to do what they are asking her not to do.
She may sometimes slip up, and fall back into her old habit. If and when this happens, she should not beat herself up about it. Rather, she can take it as a reminder that this isn’t the kind of person she wants to be anymore. And then she can get herself back on track the next time it comes up.
If she does this for a few months on the one or two sins that she wants to start with, she will begin to establish a good habit, such as truthfulness and obedience, to replace her old bad habit, such as lying and disobedience. After a while, it will no longer be so hard to tell the truth instead of lying, and it will no longer feel so burdensome to obey her parents instead of disobeying them. In fact, she will start feeling much better about herself as a person, and she will gradually lose her old desire to lie and to disobey. She will also find that people respond to her more positively than before.
For example, if she lies all the time, she’ll get a reputation as a liar, and people will stop believing anything she says. But if she commits herself to telling the truth, people will start to recognize her as an honest person, and they will listen to what she says.
And for example, if she regularly disobeys her parents, this drives a wedge between her and her parents. They will think of her as a problem child, and it will hurt her relationship with them. But if she begins obeying her parents, and even learns to obey them cheerfully, she will find that her relationship with her parents gets much closer and warmer. They will see that she is making a real effort to be a good girl and a good daughter, and it will give them happiness and satisfaction, and make them feel closer to her.
Of course, the obedience thing lasts only while she is living in her parents’ house. But as long as she is living under their roof, and especially if they are supporting her, she does have to abide by their rules. If and when she goes out on her own as an adult, starts supporting herself, and lives in her own place, then she will be responsible for herself, and she can live the way she wants to live.
What if my motives and what drives me in life are selfish and evil? How could I possibly change? In Asian culture, we are taught by our parents to do what is best for ourselves. What if our drive in life is to become rich and have a pleasurable life for ourselves? Does that make us selfish?
I am worried that although I don’t know it, I am selfish and have an evil heart on the inside no matter how kind I try to be on the outside?
In other words, I am worried that my intentions for being good is not because I realize what I’m doing is wrong, but for selfish reasons.
Once again, please see this article:
Spiritual Growth 101 with Mike Tyson: “The Virtue of Selfishness”
Every culture on the face of this earth has some materialism embedded in it. It’s not only Asian parents who teach and encourage their children to become materially successful in this world.
Becoming materially successful and wealthy is not in itself a bad thing. Whether it’s good or bad depends upon how you get your wealth, honestly or dishonestly, whether the source of your wealth is in providing needed goods and services to people, and finally, how you use your wealth, whether only for your own benefit or whether to benefit others as well.
Further, it is very common for people to spend their younger years focused mostly on building up wealth, comfort, and position for themselves, and then later in life recognizing that they want do do more than just make themselves and their families happy. So then they devote their life and wealth to helping others. If they hadn’t built up that wealth in the first place, even for selfish purposes, they would not have been in a position to help other people in major ways in their older years.
But what if we don’t devote our wealth to helping others? I mean for my father, anytime our family or some of his friends need money, he’ll loan it to them with no expectancy if getting it back, and he is very polite on the street, but he isn’t devoting all his money to helping other people.
I am very worried that he may go to hell.
Also, will it send me to hell if I don’t devote the rest of my life to helping other people?
Unless you are a complete lazy bum who is unwilling to do anything for anyone, and who won’t even get a job, but will just sit around in front of the TV or computer and let your parents support you for the rest of your life, it’s unlikely that you will spend your whole life not helping other people.
If you get a job, assuming it is not a bad job such as selling illegal drugs to people, you will be helping people every day in your job.
Even if you get married and raise children while your husband supports you, you are still taking care of your children, and if you are a good mother, you are guiding them and preparing them to be good people who contribute to the community and the country.
You would have to be really devoted to not helping anyone to spend your whole life not helping other people. If you manage to do that, then yes, you would be in danger of hell. But assuming that you pull your own weight in your household and community, and contribute to people’s well-being, you don’t have to worry about that. Just do the work that’s in front of you, and let God take care of the rest.
And I should add that you don’t have to spend every waking minute helping other people. God gave us a Sabbath for a reason. And God gave us day and night for a reason. We are meant to spend a good chunk of our day and week helping other people, and then to take some time off for ourselves and our own family, friends, and relationships.
We don’t have to devote all of our money to helping other people.
We do have to take care of our own basic needs first, such as food, housing, clothing, and so on. And I would include in that using our money to provide some recreation and relaxation for ourselves and our family. Not to mention providing education, training, and so on for ourselves and our own family. All of these are necessary for us to have a healthy mind in a healthy body so that we will be fit and ready to engage in service to others. If we don’t take care of our own mind and body, we will be in no position to take care of anyone else.
For most of us, our primary way of helping other people is in our job or career. This should be something that provides needed goods and services to other people. If we do a good job providing those goods and services, and actually care about serving people well in our job, and not only about making money, then we are devoting our life to helping other people even while supporting ourselves and our own family. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive.
If, having taken care of our own family’s needs, and having provided a good environment for our own family to grow in a healthy way mentally and physically, we still have money left over, then we can choose, if we want to, to help people who are less fortunate than we are through charitable giving. But it would be just as legitimate to help people in practical ways here and there as we see the need. These things are at our own choice and discretion.
However, once we have gotten ourselves and our family to a place of being comfortable and cared for, it is only natural for good-hearted people to want to help other people who are not so fortunate and well cared-for. It sounds like your father does do this, which suggests that he does have a good heart, even if he may be a little rough around the edges.
My father will help people who come up to him and ask him for something, only if they’re polite, and he has only borrowed money from his friends 4 times in his entire life in America. He will only go out of his way to give money to his close family and friends, though. Does this count as selfish?
What does your father do for a living? Does he do something that provides people with goods and/or services that they want and need? Does he help people in his job, and make sure to do a good job for people, and not give them shoddy merchandise or poor service? Is he dedicated and honest in his work?
If the answers to these questions are yes, then what he chooses to do with his money once he has earned it is not so important. It is his money, after all, and it’s his choice what to do with it.
Furthermore, in the Asian culture, most people in the later years of their life devote their time to being happy instead of giving their wealth to other people, and they try to fulfill their dreams. Is this selfish?
Do they share their happiness with others? For example, do they spend time with their grandchildren, doing things with them and showing them love? Do they create an atmosphere of happiness for the people around them?
If they’re not just completely focused on their own happiness, but also share their happiness with other people, then that is a good thing, not a bad thing. It may not be the deepest and most spiritual thing, but unless it really is selfish and self-centered, it is not a bad thing.
Well, they will often share photos of their journeys and vacations on Wechat to share photos with friends and family,
If people have devoted their lives to working and providing goods and services to other people, it is not bad for them to retire and spend the elder years doing some of the things they have always dreamed of doing. It’s like taking a final Sabbath after “six days of laboring and doing all their work” (see Exodus 20:8–10; Deuteronomy 5:12–14).
Plus, presumably they are spending some of their hard-earned money on hotels, taxis, local attractions, souvenirs, and so on. All of these provide work and income for people.
In some poorer areas of the world that are beautiful in their climate and scenery, the tourist industry provides a livelihood for families that would otherwise have a very hard time surviving. Even if someone stays at a fancy hotel, the valets, housekeepers, and so on are often from the poorer segment of society. This work, as menial as it may seem to some people, provides much-needed jobs for them so that they can support themselves and their families, and take some pride in earning an honest living.
A few years ago Annette and I spent a week and a half in Cuba. We stayed in local “casas,” like bed-and-breakfasts, and spent time with the owners and their families. It became very clear to us that much of the local economy depended upon tourists, mostly from Europe, coming and patronizing these casas as well as the regular tourist hotels. It provided income for people in a country whose internal economy is very weak.
Well, he works to sell merchandise, but when people confront him about being cheap, it is not because he is scamming people, but because the merchandise is low quality because it is cheap and doesn’t cost a lot.
The reality is that many people will buy the cheapest one available of any item they want. Providing this type of cheap merchandise is not bad. Ideally, it won’t be so cheap that it breaks right away. But if it actually does what it’s supposed to do, and is less expensive than other merchandise, it makes it possible for people who don’t have so much money to get the things they want and need.
Is this okay?
What are the requirements needed to get into heaven? And if it isn’t too much, can you write it in bullet point format?
Also, what do you think of the idea “an eye for an eye”? Sometimes, when my father is insulted by people, he will scare them. One time, a group of people were insulting him, and he pretended like he was going to run over them, (he really wasn’t), to show them not to do that again. Will this get him sent to hell?
Especially at the workplace, what if you try to get along with your coworkers just so that you have support from other people and get a better chance at doing what you want, and not because you actually want to be friends with them?
Lastly, is it selfish to be polite to people and to be kind, not because it is good, but because you want to make yourself look good and not like a rude person?
Note:This is kind of an extension of my previous comment.
For a step-by-step explanation (bullet points!) of how to be spiritually reborn and get to heaven, please see:
What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?
As for your father pretending to run over people when they insult him, it won’t get him sent to hell, but it might get him arrested and sent to jail. Legally, threatening to kill people is also a chargeable offense in many places if it is a credible threat. However, the general practice of deterring people from doing you harm by threatening to do them harm is not necessarily evil, if the main motivation really is to protect yourself from people who would do you harm. For a related article, please see:
Can Christians be Hardass?
About your other questions, if we are good to other people only in order to get things for ourselves, that will not get us into heaven. That’s what Jesus was talking about when he said:
If we are doing good things for other people, and being nice to them, only so that they will think of us as good people, and do things for us, as you say, that’s basically doing good for selfish reasons, and it won’t get us to heaven.
However, it isn’t necessarily a total loss. At least it gets us into the habit of treating other people well, and doing good things for them. Once we have trained ourselves to do this, even if it isn’t for very good motives, we can later recognize that we really shouldn’t just be thinking about ourselves, but that we should actually care about other people. And then we can start treating people well, not just because we’ll get something out of it for ourselves, but because it is good and right to treat other people well, and to love our neighbor, as Jesus taught.
This is one of the ways God trains us, even though we start out selfish, to live good lives. Once again, please see this article:
Spiritual Growth 101 with Mike Tyson: “The Virtue of Selfishness”
I am very worried for my father because sometimes he is very polite and good to his coworkers and clients just so that he won’t make enemies with anyone? Is this okay?
Well, it’s a heckuva lot better than being impolite and bad to his coworkers and clients. And it is good not to make enemies if there’s not a very good reason to do so. Why create unnecessary friction and conflict with people? As I’ve said to you in previous replies, the first step is to do the right thing, even if we may be doing it for the wrong reasons. Then, assuming our heart is open to a better way, God can gradually change our heart so that we are doing the right thing for the right reason.
But will treating people nice and polite for this reason send you to hell?
No. It just won’t get you to heaven. There has to be something more.
Still, you don’t have to be perfect to get into heaven. You just have to live your life with some decency and integrity because you believe in being decent and acting with integrity. We all have some selfishness mixed in with our good deeds. God won’t condemn us for that, as long as, when push comes to shove, we do the right thing because we know it’s the right thing to do.
What is that “something more”?
Thinking of other people’s well-being as well as our own.
What are those other people? Do they have to be every random stranger on the street, or can it just be your close friends and family?
They don’t have to be random strangers on the street. But it should also extend beyond just friends and family. Once again, the primary arena for thinking of other people’s well-being is in our occupation or career.
So could you just give a short brief explanation of what gets you into heaven (like what type of life you have to live, what you should do, and what you shouldn’t do)?
If you want something shorter than the article I linked for you, you’re probably not serious about it. 😛
But here’s the really short version:
Stop doing bad things, and start doing good things instead.
Is that short enough for you? 😀
Well, the article tells you how to fix your flaws, but it doesn’t tell you how we should live our lives. What I’m asking is, what are the requirements needed to get into heaven, how “good” do you have to be, and what should you not do?
When you fix your flaws, then you will be in a position to do good that is really good, and be a good person. As long as you stick with your faults and bad habits, it will block you from being a good person. That’s why most of the Ten Commandments start with “Thou shalt not.” You have to stop doing what’s wrong before you can start doing what’s right.
Also, there’s not some magic number of how many good deeds you have to do, or how good you have to be. Rather, it’s a matter of whether your heart is moved only by love for yourself and for material power, possessions, and pleasure, or whether you care about other people at least as much as you care about yourself, and express that care for others’ well-being by serving other people and doing good for them in your job, in your neighborhood, and in your other interactions with people.
Also, I am worried that I don’t know myself as well as I should. Is it good to be nice to people so that you can gain more friends and so that you don’t make any enemies, or does that count as selfish and something you need to fix?
In the midst of your life out in the world with family and friends, it is also good to pause from time to time to look into your own mind and heart, and get to know your own thoughts, desires, and motives better. This is knows as introspection and self-examination. If we engage in this sort of self-examination, and notice particularly the desires, attitudes, and beliefs we have that aren’t right, then we can work on changing them before they come out in hurtful and destructive actions.
If we don’t engage in introspection and self-examination, the only way we will know what’s wrong about ourselves that needs fixing is when we act in wrong and hurtful ways. We can still engage in self-correction and spiritual growth, but when it comes to evil and sin, trial-and-error is really not the most pleasant way to learn!
My mother and father are not religious, and are more focused on providing money for the family so they don’t always do self examination and try to fix their inner flaws. Maybe occasionally they will but I have only ever seen them do it once. Will this send them to hell?
The most likely outcome is that if they are basically good people, they will have their eternal home in the lower “natural” level of heaven. That is where most ordinary people who aren’t particularly religious or spiritual, but who live a decent and honest life, go after death. There they have a very happy life in a community of angels who are similar in character.
Also, as much as I try, some of these bad and evil desires never get out of my mind and I CAN’T change them. Is it enough just not to act on them?
Yes, it is enough, especially at this stage of your life. You will find that if you follow the advice that I gave to your friend Maggie, and don’t act on them, but do the opposite instead, that the bad and evil desires will gradually fade. This could take many years, so you have to be patient. But if you persist, there will come a time when you will look back on those bad and evil desires and realize that you don’t have them anymore, or if you do, they are not at all tempting to you, and in fact are quite unpleasant.
Is it possible for these desires to last your whole life even if you don’t act on them? If so, will that send you to hell?
It depends what they are. But if you never act upon them, and do the opposite, it is unlikely they will last your entire life. Or if they do, they will be mostly a memory, and not active desires.
We are not condemned for things that are mere desires. Rather, we are condemned for those wrong desires that we act upon, or in some cases, desires that we would act upon if we weren’t afraid of the consequences. In the afterlife, external restraints on bad (and good) behavior are loosened, and we do act according to the desires of our heart. However, those are not the desires that besiege us against our will, but the ones that we choose to dwell on, enjoy, and act upon if we can.
Even more accurately, the loves and motives that we act upon in the afterlife are the ones that flow from our “ruling love.” Our ruling love is what we have chosen to love and focus on most of all during our lifetime here on earth. That is why it is important for us to do the ongoing work of putting God and our fellow human beings (“the neighbor”) first in our loves, motives, and priorities during our lifetime on earth. If we put our own self, our own pleasure, our own possessions, our own power, our own ego, and so on, first, and don’t care about anyone else except as they serve our own interests, then we are building a life of hell for ourselves.
But if we have wrong desires, and never act upon them because we know that it would be wrong to do so, then we will not be condemned for them, and they will not cause us to go to hell. We humans are not able to control what thoughts and desires flow into our mind and heart. But we are able to control which ones we welcome and act upon. And that’s the basis on which we will be judged.
Can you choose which community of angels we live with? Although my parents and I aren’t that different, we aren’t that similar either, but I would still rather live with them.
And also, I don’t recall which article you wrote this in but if God takes away most of our bad traits when we go to heaven, although they are technically “bad” wouldn’t that still be removing part of who we are?
I mean I have some bad traits but I wouldn’t be the person who I am without them.
Lastly, do we still have our same ethnicity and gender in heaven?
Yes, we can choose which community of angels we live with. In fact, we are choosing that community during our lifetime here on earth. The type of person we choose to be in our earthly lifetime determines what community of heaven we will go to after we die. So yes, we can choose what community we will live in to eternity, but we make that choice here on earth, not in heaven.
Once we get to the spiritual world, and are ready to go to heaven, we see the pathway that leads to our particular community there, and we follow it gladly and with joy. And when we arrive in that community, we feel and know that we have arrived in our true home.
I can’t say whether you will be living with your parents there, because neither their lives nor yours is finished yet. I can only say that whoever you are living with, you would not have it any other way, because these will be “your people.”
About God taking away our bad traits, that mostly happens here on earth, as we choose to be a a good person and not a bad person. As we choose good over evil, God gradually moves our bad traits to the side where they are not an active part of our everyday life. What happens in the world of spirits after we die is mostly just some remaining clean-up of bad habits and traits that are still sticking to us, but that go against our “ruling love,” which is what we’ve chosen to put centrally in our life.
But yes, even in heaven, we don’t become perfect. Angels, especially in the lower heavens, do still have some slightly annoying habit patterns that have become part of their character. And if they have become a settled part of the person’s character, they are not taken away, though they are softened so as not to cause any real harm to the people around them or to themselves.
We do keep our same gender in heaven, and our same ethnicity as well, especially if it is an important part of our character and personality. In the afterlife we are exactly the same person we were here on earth, except that instead of having a physical body made out of physical matter, we have a spiritual body made out of spiritual substance. Even our spiritual body looks exactly like our physical body when we first wake up in the spiritual world, though it will go through some changes as time goes by in order to become fully expressive of our inner self—our mind and heart.
Our gender is a fundamental part of who we are as a person. It therefore stays the same in heaven as it was on earth.
Of course, there is the question of people who have gender dysphoria, and what gender they will be in the spiritual world. Though some people may disagree with me, my opinion is that in the spiritual world, people will be the gender that they internally identify as, assuming it isn’t just a case of gender confusion brought on by a confused upbringing. At any rate, I do believe that the gender of people with an uncertain or conflicting gender identity will be sorted out to their satisfaction and happiness in the spiritual world. No one will be forced to be a gender that they don’t want to be.
Meanwhile, the bulk of people are born and grow up with a clear gender identity that matches their clear physical gender of male or female. And they will be every bit as male or female in the spiritual world as they were on earth, both psychologically and physically.
Ethnicity is by nature more complex and variable than gender identity, simply because there are so many different ethnicities, and so many people of mixed racial and ethnic background. Still, for many if not most people, their ethnic identity is an important part of who they are as a person, and for that reason will remain a part of who they are in the spiritual world.
Swedenborg does mention people of different nationalities and religions living in different parts of heaven. Of course, he was writing several centuries ago, when the world was more segregated by race and nation than it is today. But even today, vast numbers of people live primarily with other people of their own racial and ethnic group, often by choice. I presume that this will continue in the spiritual world, even while others choose to live in a racially and ethnically mixed community, as many people also do here on earth.
This is a very good article. I remember reading this one in the past, and it really helped me stop being so hard on myself. But I would just like to share with you that Jesus never actually taught that a hell exists. I’ve recently discovered that hell is never mentioned in the original Hebrew Bible, which is why the Jews don’t believe in an eternal hell, because it’s not in the scripture.
The words for hell were mistranslated by the Roman church to fit the doctrine they created about hell. In the original Hebrew text, there is no mention of hell at all throughout the entire Bible.
I think it would really help people if more people understood that hell simply does not exist. An all-knowing, all-powerful, and eternally loving God would never create such a place.
The early Christians actually believed that all men would eventually be reconciled to God, and find faith and peace. Here is an interesting article which shows the truths of the early Christian church:
I found it immensely helpful to actually look at what the original Hebrew bible said.
I’m glad you found this article helpful in your own spiritual journey.
Thanks for the link. I did read through the article. As with most universalist articles, it seems to be a reaction to traditional Christian views of salvation, damnation, and hell—which are mostly wrong:
About hell in the Bible:
It is true that the ancient Jews had no concept of hell. But that’s only half the story. They also had no concept of heaven. In fact, they didn’t believe in any afterlife at all, good or bad. They simply believed that people went down to the grave and “slept.” They did not look forward to any future resurrection.
Even in Jesus’ day, the Sadducees, which was a major Jewish sect, did not believe in an afterlife. In fact, to this day many, if not most Jews do not believe in an afterlife. I grew up in a largely Jewish town from the time I was ten. Some of my Jewish friends told me that there is no afterlife. Rather, God blesses good people in this life, and we live on through our children and grandchildren. Having children and grandchildren and passing on our name, legacy, and wisdom is the only “afterlife” they believed in. That is how it is presented in the Old Testament right up to some of the latest books, such as Daniel, which were written after the Babylonian captivity.
The reason for this was that the ancient Jews were very physical-minded and materialistic in focus. If God had told them about any afterlife, they would either not have believed it, or they wouldn’t have paid any attention to it. Even today, many (but certainly not all) Jews are focused on living a good life here on earth, enjoying the good things this earth has to offer, and passing this on to their children and grandchildren.
To say, then, that the Old Testament doesn’t teach that there is a hell is not telling the whole story. In general, the Old Testament doesn’t teach that there is any afterlife, period. If universalists are going to point to the Old Testament to support their view that there is no hell, then they should believe that there is no heaven, either. That would be a more realistic presentation of the Old Testament’s perspective on life and death.
Even in the New Testament, the Lord could not say much about the afterlife, because people were still mostly unspiritual and physical-minded. That’s why the New Testament doesn’t go into any detail about the afterlife. And it’s why there are suggestions in the New Testament that there will be a future physical, bodily resurrection, after which the evil will be destroyed and the good will live forever on a cleansed and renewed earth. So many people are so materialistic in their thinking that if they didn’t believe that their spirit would rejoin their body, and they would live forever in the physical world, they wouldn’t believe in any afterlife at all.
Further, if universalists are right, and the Hebrew olam and other similar words mean only a time period, and never eternity, then they would have to accept that heaven, also, is temporary. You can’t claim that these words never mean “eternal” when they are speaking about hell, but they do mean “eternal” if they’re speaking about heaven.
By universalitsts’ arguments, there would be neither an eternal hell nor an eternal heaven. Both of them would only be for “an age,” and then they would end. And who knows what would happen next? If you accept this view of the Hebrew and Greek words sometimes translated “eternal,” you have to go back to the ancient Jewish view that we live only for “an age,” or a lifetime, on this earth, and then we die, never to live again, and our name and legacy is carried on by our descendants.
Besides, there are other passages that do not use that word, and that make it clear that people who go to hell stay there, and cannot cross over into heaven, nor can people in heaven cross over to hell. For example:
Of course, Jesus is speaking figuratively, not literally, about the worms, fire, and chasm. But the message is clear: People in hell remain there forever, and cannot cross over into heaven. And the reason they cannot is that they do not want to, because they love engaging in evil actions, and they cannot do that in heaven.
It is not wrong to translate the Hebrew and Greek words sheol, gehenna, hades, and so on as “hell,” as long as you understand that the ancient Hebrews, especially, did not think of “hell” as we do. They simply thought of it as an underground place where people slept to eternity—namely, the grave. Even in New Testament times people didn’t have a clear understanding of the afterlife. Those Greek and Hebrew words were the only words available for the Lord to use in speaking about the afterlife, so he had to use them, even if they originally had different meanings.
Even the word for “heaven” in both Hebrew and Greek originally meant “sky,” not “heaven.” By the universalists’ argument, we would have to believe that there is no heaven at all, because that’s not what the word for heaven originally meant. Or we would have to believe that after we die, we will rise up into the sky of this earth and live there, on the clouds—as some people throughout the ages actually have believed.
The truth is that these words for physical places became symbols and metaphors, or to use Swedenborg’s word, “correspondences” of spiritual things. People who can think only physically will read them literally, which is why many Christians believe that the afterlife will be here on earth, in a reconstituted physical body. But people who can think spiritually can understand that these are symbols for deeper, spiritual things.
In short, the Hebrew and Greek words commonly translated “heaven” and “hell” all originally meant physical places, such as the sky or the grave. But they came to symbolize the spiritual “places” of heaven and hell.
For more on some of these issues, please see:
Response to a Christian Universalist: Is There an Eternal Hell? Wouldn’t an All-Powerful God Save All People?
I appreciate your response. Thanks for your viewpoint on this matter. However, I do have some things to point out, based on my research.
First of all, I wasn’t basing my view on the universalists’ position alone. I really was just trying to find out what the early churches preached and taught. A lot of mainstream Christianity just wasn’t adding up to me.
I eventually discovered that the idea of hell began with the Roman church, not the original African churches which began Christianity (Christianity began in Africa; Ethiopia was among the earliest Christian nations.). From Africa, Christianity spread to other parts of the world. The nations like Rome, which was still under paganism, were very late in accepting the gospel, so their own views still prevailed.
Before the Roman church invented the concept of hell, it simply was not in the original Hebrew bible. The idea of hell comes from pagan beliefs which came from Rome, and it was also used to control and frighten people and the masses.
From there, the idea of hell continued in the Western world, and it never really stopped. I think there would be more support for hell had it been in the original Hebrew bible, but as I said, the Roman church fathers (such as Jerome, who was a firm believer in hell) mistranslated the words of the Bible to suit the doctrine.
As far as Gehenna goes, Jesus was simply speaking of a place, not of an eternal hell fire. Here are some words I wrote about it, based on my research:
Gehenna was simply a name that came from a place in a valley where a fire often burned. The fire would burn rubbish in this valley, which was called the valley of Hinnom. It was like an old-fashioned garbage dump! But there were also terrible child sacrifices for idols which took place in this area, and many Jews abhorred it.
When Jesus mentioned Gehenna, he did not mean eternal hell fire. Instead, He was speaking of a judgment which would take place among the Jewish people if they continued to sin, and it would be just as awful as what took place in Gehenna. He was specifically speaking of the wickedness in Israel at that time, and how it would face a punishment as fiery as the Gehenna. (And this actually happened in 70 A.D., when Jerusalem was burned to the ground). He didn’t say that everyone was going to hell.
When you read the Bible, you also have to pay attention to the historical context of what’s going on. That’s what I’ve learned.
Also, the message you mention is a parable that Jesus told, not an actual thing that happened in reality. This is the parable of the rich man who went to hell and Lazarus, right? But a parable is not the same as an actual happening in reality. I don’t think this would prove that hell exists.
I’m just going by the historical facts here: the early Christian church did not preach about hell at all. And as I explained, Gehenna was an actual place, not a symbol for eternal hell.
But I’ll continue to do my research, and see what comes up. However, I want to follow what Jesus and the apostles actually taught, not any later interpretations. So maybe you’re right and I’m wrong, or maybe I have more to learn. But personally, I am finding incredible facts which point towards an original gospel which actually did say that all men will eventually be reconciled to Christ.
Also, the man who wrote the article I shared with you was once an ardent believer in traditional Christianity, and he actually had to do tons of research to find that the idea of hell was a man-made concept.
Unfortunately, because the Bible was translated so many times, we can’t always trust our English versions. For instance, whole books were removed from the Koin Bible, one of the earliest bibles in history. The books that were removed were about Africa’s literary contributions.
The early Christians offered prayers to the dead, which seems to suggest that they did feel they lived on in some way. Maybe they didn’t have the full concept of the afterlife, but they certainly believed in praying for the dead.
It’s amazing that none of the early Christian creeds said a word about hell. I can’t explain it all here, but I’d really suggest digging into the research if you have the time. I found it fascinating! 🙂
The early Christians were more focused on believing in Jesus and living a good life than they were on getting all of the doctrines of the church correct. And when they did get around to debating correct beliefs, the big issue was who was the Son, which they identified with Jesus, in relation to the Father, who is usually thought of as the reigning God. Hell wasn’t in the early creeds because they hadn’t gotten around to trying to figure out the afterlife yet.
Yes, there were various theories. The early Christian writers that the article you linked referred to were what might today be called the “liberals” among the early Christian Fathers. Some of them also believed in reincarnation and in other doctrines that are definitely not in the Bible. If you were to read some of the “conservative” early Christian Fathers, I think you would find that others disagreed with the “liberals” on issues such as hell.
Also, Christianity did not start in Europe, nor did it start in Africa. It started in the Middle East, in the area that today is known as Palestine and Israel. Christianity did not start among Europeans, nor did it start among Africans. It started among Jews, and spread from their into Africa, Europe, and Asia. It is true that Christianity was established very early in Africa. But it was also established very early in Asia Minor, or what is today Turkey, as seen in Paul’s letters to various churches there, and the letters to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. We also know that there were Christian believers in Europe very early on, because Paul addressed at least one letter to them, Romans, which is in our Bible. It would be more accurate to say that Christianity began in Africa at the same time it was beginning in Europe and Asia. But Christianity originally started in the Middle East, and Jesus himself was not European, African, or Asian, but Middle Eastern.
Back to the main subject, the earliest Christians mostly didn’t have a very clear idea of the afterlife, because they were focused on spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, and on living according to Jesus’ commandment to love one another as he had loved them.
And yes, the Greek word gehenna does refer to the valley outside of Jerusalem that had been a place of pagan sacrifices, and that the Jewish people used to burn their trash. But do you really think that when Jesus talked about people going to Gehenna, he meant that they were going to be literally burned as trash in the desecrated valley outside of Jerusalem?
No. Clearly Jesus was using Gehenna as a metaphor for what will happen to people (individuals, not just nations, and not just the Jewish nation) who have evil hearts, and do evil deeds from their evil hearts.
Yes, the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus was a parable. Most of Jesus’ teaching was in the form of parables. That’s why it is a mistake to think that the rich man was thirsty because he was literally burning in fire. Rather, Jesus was metaphorically referring to the spiritual hellfire of anger and hatred that evil people, and evil spirits, have for each other, and the torments they wreak upon each other out of that inner evil fire of anger and hatred. This is covered in the article on hell that I linked for you.
If we have to take everything Jesus said literally, then we absolutely must literally eat his flesh and drink his blood, or there is no life in us. And if he is speaking literally about Gehenna, we must take evil people to the outskirts of Jerusalem and burn them alive in the valley there.
Obviously, that is not what Jesus is talking about. Rather, he is using the physical place of Gehenna, where the fires were always burning, as a metaphor for the spiritual “place” of hell, where the evil fires of anger and hatred are always burning.
Once again, if we are going to insist upon a literal understanding of the original meanings of the words, then we also must insist that nowhere in the Bible does it ever talk about heaven.
The word for “heaven” in both Hebrew and Greek originally meant “the sky.” As in, the earthly sky above our physical heads. It did not mean heaven. So if we’re going to say that we must stick to the original meaning of sheol as the grave or the pit, and of gehenna as the valley outside of Jerusalem where the refuse was burned, then we must also stick to the original meaning of (Hebrew) shamayim and (Greek) ouranos as the physical sky, and believe that that’s where we will go after we die, and that there we will sit on clouds and play harps.
I agree that we must look at what the original Hebrew and Greek said. But if we get stuck on literalism and a physical interpretation of everything that is written there, then we will have to deny the spiritual world altogether, and believe that we go into “soul sleep” after we die, and wait until a future resurrection when our bodies will be raised, and we will live a glorious life here on earth.
But you yourself know that is not correct, because you are in contact with someone who is now living in the spiritual world.
Unfortunately, the universalists want to have their cake, and eat it too. They want to deny any eternal hell, but believe in an eternal heaven. But if you deny that the Bible teaches an eternal hell, you also have to deny that the Bible teaches an eternal heaven. You can’t use one set of principles to interpret everything the Bible says about “hell,” and a whole different set of principles to interpret everything the Bible says about “heaven.” If you’re going to deny hell, you also have to deny heaven, because the words for both of these in the original Hebrew and Greek originally meant places here in the physical world. Originally, neither “heaven” nor “hell” referred to any spiritual realm. Even the English word “hell” came from Anglo-Saxon roots that meant the underworld, not hell, similar to the Greek words Hades and Tartarus.
Unfortunately, the universalist rejection of hell, but acceptance of heaven, is contradictory. You can’t have one without the other. If you are going to reject hell because the original words for it mean the grave or the realm of the shades, then you have to reject heaven because the original words for it mean the sky.
Well, this is very interesting and in-depth! As I said, I’m still learning, so I will continue to research.
But I’m still wondering why you say Christianity didn’t start from Africa. The historical facts show that the early Jews were African people (or Hamitic blacks to use the historical terms). And because the early Jews were Hamitic blacks, that was part of Jesus’s bloodline, because He was partly Jewish.
But as I said, I’m not an expert, and I still have lots to learn. Thanks for replying.
The Jews were Semitic people (descendants of Shem, in the Hebrew Table of Nations), not Hamitic people (descendants of Ham). I know it has become popular in some quarters to say that the Jews were Hamites. But the Bible makes it very clear that they were Semites. All of the genealogies in Genesis agree on this.
Did they intermarry with some Hamites? Yes. Joseph, for example, married an Egyptian, and the Egyptians were Hamites. So yes, there was some Hamitic blood in the Israelite nation even in Old Testament times. But their dominant ancestry, according to the biblical genealogies, was Semitic, not Hamitic.
Jesus also was Semitic, because he is said to have descended from David, who was from the tribe of Judah. His patrilinear genealogy was therefore Semitic. (Though of course, if we believe the nativity stories in Matthew and Luke, he was not the biological son of Joseph.) We do not know his matrilinear genealogy. However, given that Mary was also a Jew, we have to assume that her genealogy was primarily Semitic as well.
We do not know what Jesus actually looked like. He certainly did not look like the blond, blue-eyed, European that is commonly depicted in Western Christian artwork. Most likely he had curly black hair and beard, brown eyes, and an olive complexion, like other Galileans of his day. Here is an article you might find interesting:
What did Jesus really look like? by Joan Taylor, BBC News
Actually, you are right that Jesus was partly Jewish. But He also had Hamitic blood from some of His ancestors. However, rather than go on and on about it here, I’ll just suggest a book which can really explain it much better than I could:
“The Black Biblical Heritage: Four Thousand Years of Black Biblical History” by John L. Johnson is an absolutely wonderful book, and it shows a lot of truths. Maybe one day, you can check it out! 🙂
Jesus’s ancestry included Hamitic blood because the Jews spent over four hundred years as slaves under the rule of Negro-Egypt, and there was much intermarriage between the two groups. Jesus was partly Jewish, for sure, but there was also African (Hamitic) blood in Him.
But as I said, I hope one day you can check out the book. You may also find this website interesting:
Yes, as I said, there was Hamitic blood in the Jewish people. But once again, their dominant lineage was Semitic, and they consider themselves to be Semitic. Their descendants today are also mostly not black. They have intermarried with various races and ethnicities, but they still hold to their Semitic ancestry as recounted in the Bible.
I would encourage you not to accept everything you hear from people who are aligned with a particular point of view, but to read contrasting and opposing points of view as well.
Don’t worry, I love to study around! 😀
I will be pausing here for now, as I have some work to do, but thanks for your point of view.
If you are interested, here is an article which scholars wrote at the center of African Christianity:
I found it really interesting.
I’m afraid that your sources are engaging in a selective reading of the Bible and of history in order to support a desired narrative. Neither the biblical narrative nor historical and archaeological sources provide clear support for this particular view of the Israelites’ stay in Egypt.
In fact, there are far more questions than answers about that period of Israelite history. Most scholars believe the story of the Egyptian slavery and the Exodus are largely mythological, though some think there is a grain of historical truth that formed the basis for the eventual mythological origin story of the Jews that appears in the Hebrew Bible. See:
Wikipedia -> The Exodus -> Origins and historicity
Even within the Bible itself, there are three different ways to date the time spent in slavery in Egypt, and they yield vastly different lengths of time.
For a good analysis of these conflicting possibilities and others, from a Jewish perspective, see:
How Many Years Were the Israelites in Egypt?
Further, there is no consensus on exactly when the Israelites would have been in Egypt. The narrative itself does not mention the names of the Pharaohs who appear in the story, and as the Wikipedia article on the Exodus linked above points out, there is a whole range of dates and dynasties for when the story may be set.
Also, yes there were indeed black rulers in Egypt. Best known are the Hyksos, but they did not rule the whole of Egypt, nor were they in power anywhere near long enough for the Israelites to have been enslaved to them for four hundred years. The racial make-up and history of Egypt is much more complex than the simple “they were black” narrative that is championed in some quarters. See:
Were the Ancient Egyptians Black or White? Frank J. Yurco, BAR 15:05, Sep-Oct 1989.
In reality, then as now, Egypt encompassed a wide range of skin colors, from very light to very dark. The idea that the Jews were black because they intermarried with black Egyptians just isn’t based on reality. And neither ancient depictions of Jews nor their present-day descendants support this theory.
Plus, from Abraham onward there was a strong culture of not intermarrying with the surrounding nations, but of intermarrying with relatives within their own clan.
This established a strong pattern of preference for marriage within the clan, which was later (after the Exodus) codified in a prohibition of intermarrying with the surrounding nations (see Deuteronomy 7:1–4; Joshua 23:6–9). And though there certainly was some intermarriage with surrounding nations, this was less than we might think due to that strong preference for marrying within the clan.
Put this together with the likelihood that even by the biblical account, the Israelites seem to have been in Egypt for only three or four generations, that eleven of the twelve brothers were already married with children when they entered Egypt (see Genesis 46:1–27; Exodus 1:1–5), and the reality that the Egyptians were not uniformly “black” as some claim, and the idea that the Israelites were heavily black by the time they left Egypt simply doesn’t hold water.
Mind you, I would have no problem with it if the Israelites were black. But there just isn’t good support for this in the biblical narrative nor in what we know of the history of those times and of the Israelite people.
It would be more accurate to say that there was Egyptian blood in the Israelites’ lineage. But present-day scholars generally believe that the Israelites were of Canaanite origin. Meanwhile, the Biblical narrative strongly emphasizes that they were not of Canaanite origin, but came from “Ur of the Chaldeans” (Genesis 11:28, 31; 15:7; Nehemiah 9:7) commonly thought of as being located in present-day southern Iraq, and were of Semitic, not Hamitic origins.
Also, keep in mind that the Jews of Jesus’ time were descended mostly from the southern tribes of Judah and Simeon, with some Benjamites mixed in, and a smattering of the other tribes that had lived in Jerusalem and its environs. The northern tribes, including both tribes of Joseph (who had Egyptian blood due to Joseph’s wife being Egyptian) were carried off into exile by the Assyrians, and ceased to be part of the Israelite nation. The poorer people of the northern tribes who remained in the land likely intermarried with other local peoples, and that mix eventually became the Samaritans of Jesus’ day.
At any rate, Jesus’ ancestry is traced from the Davidic line, which came from the southern tribe of Judah. There was Canaanite blood in Judah’s line as well, but it was not Egyptian blood.
If you add it all up, then, there just isn’t good support for Jesus being heavily derived from Egyptians, whether dark-skinned or light-skinned.
Once again, it wouldn’t bother me at all if Jesus were black, or if he were predominantly Egyptian. (In fact, I remember reading in elementary school a story called, “The Boy Who Painted Christ Black,” and thinking it was fascinating!) But the biblical, historical, and archaeological evidence just doesn’t support that idea. The overwhelming evidence is that he was Middle Eastern in ethnicity and culture. This also means that Jesus was emphatically not European, as he is often depicted in Western Christian artwork.
Hence my statement that Jesus was not African or European, but Middle Eastern. And also that Christianity originated neither in Europe nor in Africa, but in the Middle East.
In fact, as I said in another comment, Christianity originated at the precise area of the world where Asia, Africa, and Europe meet and communicate with one another. And this, I believe, was under God’s Providence, so that from there, it could spread to the entire world, Asia, Africa, and Europe, and eventually to the other continents as well.
I’m sorry, but the sources I read, if you read them, are actually historical sources. The center for early Christianity was made by historians, theologians, and professors. Many of them come from Europe as well as Africa. Although I would like to base history off the Bible itself, it has been translated and altered so many times, it’s hard for me to do that. So I’d rather look at the historical facts and ancient texts, and go from there.
What I like about the center of early African christianity is that it’s actually basing its information on real facts, ancient texts, and history. It’s not a center with an agenda, but rather an earnest hope. from both Europeans and Africans, to bring the truth of Africa’s contribution to Christianity to light. Many of these ancient texts are being translated, with the help of both Europeans and Africans. To me, it’s beautiful to see them working together to uncover Africa’s contribution to Christianity.
Of course, Christianity officially began in the Middle East, as you said. But what these historians are discovering is that Africa had a big role to play in how it spread to other countries, and they’ve found real historical artifacts and texts which show that many of the early church fathers were Africans.
As I said, though, if you would rather believe the Bible literally about the history, that’s okay. I prefer to look for the historical facts.
The reason I would trust the center for early christianity over wikipedia is because the center is actually full of historians and theologians from around the world. They are actually working on the artifacts and texts themselves, and you know, I love seeing how they base it in facts.
But I will pause here for now, as I have a lot of studying to do! 🙂
I did read the articles you linked for me at that site. Everything in them was about early Christianity in Africa, and its relationship with early Christianity in other parts of the ancient world. This would be from the first century AD onward. I’m aware that Africa had a major role in the early Christian church after its initial beginnings in Palestine. Before northern Africa was conquered by Islam in the seventh century, it was indeed a heavily Christian region, and the home of many well-known early Christian Fathers.
What I’m talking about here is the history of the Israelites / Jews leading up to the time of Christ, which is a whole different time period.
Also, the Bible itself is a historical source, even if it is also considered Scripture by two or three religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). Many of the other ancient sources are also religious writings. You can’t just cut the Bible out of consideration when you’re doing history. Of course, secular historians don’t accept the Bible as literal history. But it is still a valuable source of cultural and historical material even for secular historians.
Records from these ancient time periods are often fragmentary. All of them have some axe to grind, whether it is religious or political. Historians have to combine these records with discoveries from archaeological digs, inscriptions on ancient monuments, and so on, in order to do their best to piece together what happened.
In short, it’s not as though we have solid, reliable historical records for all of these ancient time periods, and then there’s the Bible, which is unreliable and not worth paying any attention to. Even for secular historians, the Bible is one valuable source of information about people and events in ancient times.
As for the Bible being translated and retranslated, and changed along the way, that is mostly not correct as people who are not Bible scholars commonly think of it. In fact, the text of the Bible is one of the best-attested and best-preserved ancient texts in the world. We know this because we have found ancient caches of biblical texts, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, that go back to the centuries just before and after Christ. These ancient texts are very similar to the biblical texts we have today. Yes, there are differences. But all-in-all, the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts of the Bible have been remarkably well-preserved for the past 2,000 years. Before that, their history does get murkier and more contested.
Few other ancient texts that we have today have anywhere near the level of support and certainty that the biblical texts do. Most were copied and recopied over many centuries, and likely departed significantly from their original versions. Scholars generally agree, for example, that the reference to Jesus Christ in Josephus’s history was a later addition.
It is true that there are segments of the Hebrew and Greek Bibles that seem to have been changed from the original versions. Ironically, this is more true of the New Testament texts than of the Old Testament texts. But these segments are relatively short segments. A few of them may be half a chapter long. Others are only a verse or two. Many are just one or two words.
The idea that the Bible has been translated and re-translated for the past 2,000 years, and this has changed it, is a misconception. Translations into most major languages are done directly from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. Though scholars have indeed discovered some likely changes to those original texts from when they were first written, especially during the millennium or so before Christ, the changes in the two millennia since Christ have been, as I said, mostly rather minor.
In short, the translations of the Bible that have been done in the past 2,000 years are almost entirely irrelevant to the state of preservation of the biblical texts in their original languages. This is really a non-issue.
Well, I will keep learning and researching! Thank you for the detailed reply. I do believe the Bible is more accurate than what it’s given credit for, but I also want to check the historical facts, too. I guess I’m still on the fence a bit.
You are also right about the Bible being incredibly accurate historically, at least in its original state. So that was my mistake there, sorry. 🙂
I wouldn’t say that the Bible is incredibly accurate historically. Rather, its text has been unusually well-preserved compared to most other ancient texts.
The purpose of the Bible was never to recount history. Rather, it was a religious and cultural document intended to give meaning and form first to the Jewish people, and then to Christians. Its authors never thought of themselves as writing “history” as we think of it today.
Much of the material in the Bible is mythological rather than historical. For example, there is no evidence outside of the Bible for any extended Israelite slavery in Egypt, and especially not for any mass exodus on the scale described in the book of Exodus, which would be somewhere between 600,000 and two million people, depending on how you read Exodus 12:37. Archaeologists have searched diligently for evidence of such a mass exodus, and have come up completely empty. That’s why few to no scholars who aren’t fundamentalist Christians think any such event ever happened historically.
So it’s not that the Bible is reliable history. Rather, it is a well-preserved ancient manuscript that provides a wealth of cultural and quasi-historical information that scholars can include as one source in their reconstruction of human history.
I’m a bit puzzled by what you said about how it’s not wrong to translate sheol, gehenna, and hades as hell when they clearly don’t mean hell.
Here are the definitions of the words:
Sheol means “the grave” or “the pit”, like a burial place. In the original Bible, people often mentioned Sheol as simply a place where the dead dwell. It had no connotations of eternal torment. In fact, in Psalm 139, King David said that if he made his bed in Sheol, God would be there to comfort Him and love Him. That is, even in death, David could still be with God.
Psalm 49:15 says, “But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah.” This clearly shows that Sheol is not a place of torment where no one can escape, and it is not the traditional Christian hell. This verse shows that God can redeem your soul even in the state of death or burial (literally and metaphorically).
Hades is a Greek word for the same thing – the burial place of the dead or the grave, or the pit.
Gehenna was simply a name that came from a place in a valley where a fire often burned.
If we’re going to teach the plain words of the Bible, I feel we ought to see the plain definitions.
The sad fact is that our later Bible translations (starting from the one Jerome made in the Roman church to the KJV and so on) do not have complete accuracy. When you translate a work, it’s never going to be quite the same as the original. And the words that later Biblical translators translated as hell simply don’t mean hell.
But maybe I’m wrong. I don’t say I have all the answers. However, I want to follow what Jesus actually taught, and so far, it’s really beautiful.
Psalm 139 doesn’t say God will comfort and love David in Sheol. Rather, it says that God will be there if David makes his bed there:
(But it should really be, “If I ascend into the sky.”)
And Psalm 49 is talking poetically about God rescuing David from death, meaning that the evil will die an early death, but David will live out his full lifetime. Of course, Psalm 139 is also poetic, as are all the Psalms.
If we wanted to adopt a standard of translating every word in the Bible according to its original meaning, I would certainly be interested to see such a translation, but you might be surprised by some of the results. For example, “the kingdom of heaven” in Jesus’ teachings in Matthew would become “the kingdom of the sky.” In fact, the word “heaven” would never appear in such a translation, because the original meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words is “sky,” not “heaven.”
When God told Abraham to “look up to the heavens and count the stars” (Genesis 15:15), he did not mean “heaven” as we think of it today, but the nighttime sky. So it would be in every other place where our Bible translations have “heaven.”
It probably would be best to translate the words of the Old Testament such as sheol according to their original meaning. And many contemporary translations, including the New Revised Standard Version, do exactly that. But by the time of the New Testament, there was clearly a concept of an afterlife, and the words that occur there that are commonly translated “heaven” and “hell” are I believe, being used to refer to the spiritual realms of heaven and hell, not to the sky and to graves and trash dumps.
And even in the Old Testament, if we’re not stuck on a literal translation, then using “hell” for sheol and heaven for shamayim is not wrong, because that’s what they are really referring to for Christians today, even if they meant something different to the Jews of Bible times.
My opinion is that either you should consistently translate these words according to their original meaning, in which case neither “heaven” nor “hell” would appear anywhere in the Bible, or you should recognize that these words were used as metaphors for areas of the spiritual realm—especially in the New Testament.
Even though the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is indeed a parable, still gives us an indication of what Jesus wished to convey about the afterlife. It tells us several things, including that there is immediate resurrection into the afterlife, not some future resurrection; that there are areas of blessedness and of grief in the afterlife; and that people who live in one cannot go to the other, because there is a barrier between them.
Jesus also teaches immediate resurrection in his words to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). So although he veiled much of his teaching in parable, what he presented in the parables also gives us a sense of what he actually knew about the afterlife, and about other matters covered in the parables.
However, as long as you think of hell as a pace where God sends evil sinners to punish them for their sins, and that the punishment is being burned in literal fire forever, of course you will reject the idea of hell, and especially of an eternal hell. Any thoughtful, loving, and merciful person would.
But that is not what hell is. Rather, hell is the place where God allows people who have chosen evil over good to go so that they can indulge in as much of their evil pleasure as is possible, but where, unfortunately, they must feel the consequences of their evil behavior as well, in the form of being attacked and punished by other evil spirits. Of course, they don’t like it when they’re on the receiving end. But they absolutely love it when they’re the ones dishing out the punishment. And so they put up with being punished by other evil spirits because that’s a necessary part of their being able to punish and torture other evil spirits, which is what they get their greatest pleasure from doing.
Yes, it’s horrible and disgusting. Evil is horrible and disgusting. But the reality is that some people choose selfishness, greed, power, anger, and lust over selflessness, generosity, service, brotherly / sisterly love, and spiritual marriage. And they do so because they derive pleasure from it.
Hell, once again, is where God allows these people to go if that is where they want to go. God would love to raise all of them out of hell and into heaven. But they refuse, because they love their evil pleasures, and they do not want to give them up, even if it means that they then must suffer the consequences. And God will not force us to live the way God would want us to live.
Please do read the articles I linked for you earlier. It is all explained there.
All right. I have read those articles before, but I will check them out again in the future.
As I said, I’m not an expert. However, I’ll keep learning and researching, and I’ll see what I find!
Perhaps you’re right, but only God has all the answers. I’m cautious about Swedenborg’s interpretations of the Bible, because if I believe completely in every interpretation Swedenborg made, I would basically be basing my whole beliefs on what Swedenborg said he saw in the spiritual world. And sometimes we are mistaken about what we see in the spiritual world.
But that’s just my personal decision. I just like to study and search around and see alternative explanations. Thanks a lot for sharing your viewpoint.
Swedenborg himself based his theology primarily upon the Bible, and insisted that Christian doctrine must be drawn from the literal meaning of the Bible, and supported by it. And in fact, the plain words of the Bible do support Swedenborg’s basic teachings about God and salvation. They do not support what Catholics and Protestants teach about these things.
Swedenborg specifically denied that he received his teachings from angels and spirits, but said that he received them from the Lord alone, while he was reading the Bible. Here it is in his own words, translated into English, of course:
Well, I thought I was hearing from God when I thought I found my soulmate! 😀
But all joking aside, I believe Swedenborg was a good man, and some of his teachings definitely help us become kinder human beings. I just like to study around and search, so I will keep on searching.
Yes, we certainly can fool ourselves about what God is saying to us! Been there, done that. 😦
And of course, it is good to read widely and make up your own mind about what makes sense to you and what rings true to you. Swedenborg himself said that we should believe something only if we understand it and see that it is true. That’s just as true of what Swedenborg wrote as it is of anything else.
I put great trust in what Swedenborg wrote because of his extensive experience in the spiritual world, because it agrees with the constant teachings of the Lord in the Bible, and because it rings true to me and works in my life. But there are some things he says that I don’t agree with.
You, of course, will have to make up your own mind what to believe.
That is so true. We all have this journey where we all learn new things over time. You are spot on about that! 😀
Oh, here’s another fascinating thing! It is a historical timeline:
I just want to tell you that actually, you were right. I did some more research, and it’s true that Jesus began his ministry in the Middle East. I’m still learning things! 😀
Though Jesus did spend part of his young childhood in Egypt, that seems to have lasted only a few years. At any rate, based on the biblical accounts, we know he was settled back in the Holy Land by the time he was twelve, and there is no biblical record of his going anywhere outside of the Holy Land and its immediate vicinity for the rest of his life.
I should add that since Jesus’ public ministry only lasted about three years, there really wasn’t much time for him to go anywhere else. In those days, it took weeks or months to travel to other nations in the region.
Also, I don’t think it is any accident that the Holy Land is right where the three continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe meet. From there, the message could and did spread out to most of the then-known world.
Hello Lee! (Once again, im very sorry, i didn’t know where to post this)
I hope your not annoyed at how many questions i ask on your blog, it’s just that i like (and agree) with your view point on most things and this blog always helps me find some sort of comfort when i need it.
Recently i found a comedy series that i really enjoy, but it also has a fair amount of swearing and dark or dirty humor and that got me thinking, is that type of humor a sin?
I know Ephesians 5:4 talks about “crude joking that is out of place” but to me that verse has always been about joking about things that shouldn’t be joked about (like someones disability for example) or joking at inappropriate times.
But what about times when everyone is ok with it? For example, like i mentioned me watching a show specifically made to make people laugh. (Which mostly uses swearing to exaggerate jokes or pokes fun at situations which are clearly wrong, but overall has positive messages and themes)
Im a person who likes a little dirty or dark humor. (My friends and even some of my family do too) and im afraid i might go to hell because if the things i find funny. Of course, i only make those jokes around people i know like that sort of humor. I also don’t really swear except when im making a joke or qouting one. (I also don’t like very vulgure humor or jokes that poke fun of real life horrible things that have happaned)
I don’t really think this type of stuff is a sin when done carefully and with other people in mind. (For example Paul also seems to have had a dark sence of humor like in Galatians 5:12) But maybe im in the wrong?
No problem about the questions. That’s what I’m here for.
First of all, nobody is going to hell just because they tell some dirty jokes, or laugh at them. These are trivial external things. The real question is what the person’s character is inwardly. That’s why in the very next verse Paul goes on to say:
If a person enjoys dirty jokes because she or he is immoral, impure, and greedy, then it is the immorality, impurity, and greediness of the person’s character that will send him or her to hell, not the enjoyment of dirty jokes. But if a person is inwardly a (mostly) moral, pure, and generous person, and if the person acts in a moral, pure, and generous way (keeping in mind that nobody’s perfect), then he or she will go to heaven, not hell, despite an enjoyment of dirty jokes.
Yes, of course, jokes that demean and humiliate people—especially people who are disadvantaged in some way—or that tear down what is good and true in life, are not good, and should be avoided. But many jokes that are expressed in a crude way are meant to pierce the illusions and fantasies that we cling to about ourselves and our society, and get people to look at reality. The strong language is a way of breaking down the faux politeness that keeps people from seeing, and telling, the truth about things.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need such strong language. But even Jesus used strong language in several situations when he was piercing the illusions of goodness among the hypocritical religious leaders of the day. And yes, Paul used some salty language also.
Once again, it’s the attitude and character behind it, and also the way we actually live that matters when it comes to whether we’ll go to heaven or to hell. I think of the comedian Dave Chappelle, who can certainly use some salty language, but who is happily married with children, and lives in a small town in Ohio. It’s the way he lives, not the crude language he uses in his stand-up routines, that will determine whether he is going up or down spiritually.
I love the Lord, but I did lose my way… I thought he left me, but I never thought he didn’t exist. I found my way back, but it is bothering me. Am I going to Hell?
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question. Short answer: No, you are not going to hell because of things that you did in the past if you are no longer doing them. That’s what repentance is all about. For the long answer, please see this article:
Ezekiel 18: God’s Message of Hope . . . If You Think there’s No Hope for You
I hope this helps. Godspeed on your spiritual journey!
All that stuff at the beginning of the article pertains to me. I am now in my late 70s. So it’s probably too late. I have an idea I am one of those predestined reprobates I have read about. I have pretty much accepted that now. If it will give God glory to see me burn in hell, then his will be done.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. You may have read about predestined reprobates, but there is no such thing. God creates everyone for heaven, and no one for hell. If people do go to hell, that is not God’s will, but their own choice. God gains no glory from seeing anyone burning in hell:
As long as you are still living and breathing on this earth, it is not too late. Please see:
Ezekiel 18: God’s Message of Hope . . . If You Think there’s No Hope for You
Recently I have been struggling. I know God loves me and I love God back..and yet.. i feel myself fearing him everyday. I have started developing somewhat irrational fears of the things around me and more specifically, my enjoyment of them.
I know God isn’t angry with me, that he isn’t angry with anyone, but I feel he might not be angry but.. dissapointed in me? If that makes sense?
I often stop myself from expressing/feeling happy when im excited about something or just in a great mood, because I feel like that is selfish and God might not be pleased with me in that moment.
For example I recently got felt ashamed because I looked at a dog breed that I really enjoyed and after a few moments I thought: “But what if it’s not ok that I like this? Afterall, humans bred dogs, not God, God made wolves and man created the dog.” or another time I felt shame for enjoying the rain because I thought how im only thinking about the rain and not God.
I know it’s ok to not think about God 24/7 but whenever I catch myself enjoying things and not thinking about God I feel ashamed.
I have been struggling for a few months now and recently I remembered your blog, and how it helped me in the past, so I thought I could maybe find some comfort here.
Keep in mind that God created everything on this earth, including human beings and the things that human beings create. The only thing God doesn’t create is evil. That comes from humans twisting the good things God made into wrong forms due to selfishness and greed. But the entire natural world is a creation of God, and expresses the nature of God, as Psalm 19:1–4 says:
When we enjoy the good things God has made, we are also enjoying the presence of God in our world and in our life.
Thank you for the response, im kind of relieved to hear that.
But what about things that aren’t from the natural world, do they still count?
And if I may ask, when does enjoying things become sinful?
Like I said, I know not thinking about God all the time is ok, but is it really alright?
What about the bible talking about us needing to do everything in the name of God?
Im ashamed to admit, I don’t really want to make everything in my life about God, because i’ve seen where it leads certain people. (Altough I do feel horrible saying admitting this)
Please tell me, will I go to hell if I feel this way?
Do you think God is disappointed in me?
Enjoying things becomes evil and even sinful when it is unhealthy and destructive instead of healthy and constructive.
For example, eating is good. It is part of maintaining a healthy mind in a healthy body. However, overeating, especially if it is done day after day, week after week, and year after year, is bad because it causes the body to become overweight and unhealthy, affecting both our physical and our mental abilities.
The purpose of eating, drinking, physical exercise, and so on is to maintain a healthy mind and body. The enjoyment we experience in doing these things is based on their good nature and salutary effects on our life. God gives us enjoyment in doing things that are good for us and good for our fellow human beings. Enjoying these natural activities is good and God-given.
What causes them to become evil instead of good is when our priorities are out of order. The order of priorities that God has established is to put love for God first, love for the neighbor second, and everything else third. Jesus said to seek God’s kingdom and its righteousness first and all of these other things will be added to us as well (Matthew 6:33).
If we are “eating to live,” meaning eating good food to maintain a healthy body, then eating is good because it is done in service of a healthy body, and having a healthy body enables us to better serve God and the neighbor. But if we “live to eat,” such that our life becomes centered around food and eating, then our priorities are wrong, and our eating becomes unhealthy, our body becomes unhealthy, and we are less able to serve God and the neighbor. The same principle applies to every other physical and worldly activity, assuming it isn’t inherently destructive (such as smoking cigarettes).
When our priorities are out of order, our enjoyments also get out of order. When we’re thinking about food all day, and just waiting for our next meal, it distracts us from the important things in life. We dig into our food and feel pleasure in it, but it is an unhealthy pleasure because we’re focusing our whole enjoyment of life on something that is meant to serve other, greater actions and enjoyments—especially the joy we can experience in serving other people and doing good things for them. (Of course, if our profession is to be a cook, then it’s different. Then ideally we are focused on providing good and delicious food for other people, which is a useful service to our neighbor.)
In short, enjoying things, including physical and worldly things, is good when we have our priorities in the right order, and bad when we have our priorities in the wrong order.
It’s best not to take everything in the Bible too literally. When the Bible says to do things in the name of God, that doesn’t mean that every time we do something, we have to literally say “Jesus,” or it is evil.
The deeper meaning of a “name” is the quality or reputation of a person or thing. We talk about people having a “good name,” meaning that they have a good reputation. If that good reputation is real, and not just a hypocritical show, it is earned by having a good character and acting well and honestly based on that good character.
In the cultures of the Bible, people were named according to some event or quality connected with them. For example, in the Bible, “Esau” means “hairy,” and his other name “Edom” means “red,” whereas Jacob means “heel-grabber,” an idiom for “trickster, supplanter.” These names were given to them due to the circumstances of their birth, and due to their general character. In many cultures today people are still named according to some quality that they have or that their parents’ aspire to for them. And people commonly acquire nicknames based on some quality of their character.
In the Bible, the name “Jesus” means “Jehovah saves” (see Matthew 1:21). The name “Jesus” doesn’t mean anything just as a collection of letters or of sounds that come out of our mouth. But when we think of its meaning in the original languages of the Bible—that salvation is from the Lord—then it has meaning.
To make a long story short, when we do things in harmony with the quality and character of the Lord, we are doing things “in the Lord’s name,” whether or not we are consciously thinking about the Lord at the time we are doing them. If we are acting from love of the Lord, meaning out of a respect for the Lord and a dedication to doing the Lord’s will, and also from love of the neighbor, meaning out of an active desire to do good things for our fellow human beings because we care about them and want what is good for them, then we are acting “in the name of the Lord” because we are acting according to the qualities of character that the Lord teaches us to cultivate and that the Lord represents in our life.
I agree with you about not being like people who are always thumping their Bibles and saying “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” but who treat their fellow humans badly, and engage in hurtful and bigoted words and actions. Jesus himself said:
When you say “things that aren’t from the natural world,” I assume you mean human-made things.
Technically, everything in this world is “from the natural world.” Even the things humans invent and make are made from natural materials. The question to ask is not so much whether something humans make is “natural” as whether it is good, constructive, and healthful or bad, destructive, and disease-inducing.
Even that is a little too simplistic. Sometimes we must destroy something in order to put something better in its place. If a building has gotten old and dangerous, first we have to bring in the wrecking ball and clear away the rubble. Only then can a new, better, and safer building be put in its place. We have to consider, not just a thing’s short-term effects, but its long-term effects. For example, the short-term effect of smoking a cigarette is to calm a person’s nerves. But the long-term effect is to destroy the person’s health. On the other hand, the short-term effects of a surgery are to slice a person open and damage various tissues. But its long-term effect is to correct a physical injury or malfunction.
It is part of our God-given judgment as human beings to evaluate various things we humans make and do, and consider whether they are good and salutary or bad and destructive—and this not just in the short-term, but in the long-term. After all, God looks at things from an eternal perspective.
Further, it is our responsibility as moral and spiritual beings to put our inventions to good use, and to avoid using them for selfish, greedy, and destructive purposes. To use a highly debated example, it is not bad for a country to have a military as long as its purpose is to defend itself and its citizens from foreign aggression and attack. But if a country uses its military to engage in aggression against other countries, then it becomes evil because it is being used in service of greed and lust for power rather than in service of protecting innocent people from harm.
Yes, this is a complicated subject. But in general, if we humans make and do things that are good and constructive, and that help people to live better lives, then it is all good. But if we make and do things to serve our own self-centered desires for money, power, and pleasure at the expense of other people’s well-being, then it is evil and wrong.
As for ordinary things such as a particular breed of dog or a particular type of tennis shoe, enjoying these is not bad. I must admit, I don’t like the pit bulls and other vicious dogs that many people seem to enjoy owning. On the other hand, if a person lives in a dangerous and crime-ridden area, having a mean-looking dog can be very good protection! Once again, it’s complicated. That’s why God gave us a thinking and rational mind.
Truly and genuinely thank you for the replies,
While I still have alot of thinking to do, they did help me understand everything a bit better.
Really, there’s nothing more I can say, but that the work you and Annette put into this blog really is a huge help for me and many other people, I hope you two understand that.
Thank you again,
Thank you. That’s why we do this blog!