Heaven and Hell

Did a talk on the Ten Commandments for our church youth group and got a bit of an epiphany. Read the second part of the second commandment.

“You shall have no other gods beforea me.
4“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Something that I’ve said for awhile is that the people in the Old Testament did not have a concept of heaven. Their eternal life was their children. That is why God promised Abraham that his children would be as numerous as the stars. It is also why impercatory prayers fell on the children of the wicked. It is why God sacrificing his son is so significant.

One of the problems with the current view of heaven and hell is that heaven is portrayed like a picnic, lots of grass and bright sunshine with some lions and lambs frolicking about, pleasant but not great. On the other hand, Hell is portrayed as a lake of fire. Fire is very very bad and because it is a lake we assume that everyone in it receives the same punishment just as in a lake all the water would be the same temperature (or close). It just doesn’t seem fair or proportionate.

Viewing the second part of the second commandment as indicative of God’s attitude towards eternal punishment it seems that God is weighted towards the positive. God is going to punish the evil a little bit, two or three generations worth but he is going to reward the faithful a thousand generations worth. This difference is even greater when you consider that a thousand is used in the Bible to mean a very large number. For instance thousands in “He owns the cattle on a thousand hills” is used the way we would use millions today. It is not meant to be literal.

So I believe:
* that hell will be just. The punishment will fit the crime so to speak.
* heaven will be really really great, far far out of proportion to anything we might think we deserve.
* generations is really talking about eternal life.

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