Recently, I asked readers to provide their views of heaven and hell and of who gets to enter heaven.
Their answers have as many theological variations as there were writers.
The shortest response was one of two that expressed disbelief. John Taylor, of Natchez, Miss., said, “I have no recollection of any events before my birth. I see no sound reason to expect any experience after my death. Heaven and hell? Purely sops for those unfortunate enough to be unable to accept reality.”
The second unbeliever didn’t want his name in the paper for fear of repercussions.
Flames burn through
Fire, a common depiction of hell, made an appearance.
Greg Chatelain, of World Evangelism Bible College, wrote, “Hell is a fiery place of suffering and torment. Rejecters of Christ will burn there.
“Heaven will be eternity with Jesus and his saints. No one will cry nor be sad in heaven. No one will be sick in heaven. Heaven has streets of gold and a river of life. Only followers of Christ will enter into heaven. Jesus died because God desires for no man to perish.”
However, Marian Choudhury wrote that hell isn’t about fire:
“Hell is not a place of fiery, eternal torment for the wicked. Jesus spent parts of three days in hell after his death. The Bible explains that hell is the common grave of mankind, a state where our bodies return to dust and our consciousness, as Jesus described it, is like a deep sleep.
“There is a heaven. Heaven is where God, Jesus, the angels, and a limited number of men and women will reside. They have a governmental job to do. They will rule as kings and priests over the earth. Jesus said that the meek would inherit the Earth. The majority of those who die will be resurrected to life on a paradise earth.”
Do rewards vary?
Rhonda Browning, of Baton Rouge, wrote of fire and added another common theme: Does everyone in heaven receive the same level of reward?
She wrote: “Heaven is being with God if you believe in God. I don’t think that a non-believer would want to be in heaven, however because celebrating your relationship with God would be pretty tiresome if you did not accept Jesus.
“I like the descriptions of heaven that involve rewards and mansions, that people get for serving God after getting saved. It will probably bother me to see some people in heaven who have accepted Jesus but misused their salvation to hurt people, like those who abuse the gay community, persecute the poor or otherwise misrepresent God. I do not think they will get a mansion, just a shack behind the fabulous home of a Christian gay person.”
Barbara Bankston Carter, of Franklinton, also wrote of levels in heaven:
“It is my belief that God has a place for all of his children. ... However, I do believe that there will be different levels in Heaven. Some will probably have lovely rooms, while others will live in a place that is not so desirable.”
Margaret Sharp, of Baton Rouge, wrote: “Who enters heaven? The answer is EVERYONE who ever lived on the earth will be resurrected … and inherit one of three degrees of glory in heaven — with the exceptions noted in next answer. …
“Who ‘goes to hell’? Satan with those who also rejected Christ and followed Satan in the war in heaven who live on the earth as spirits, and the few who followed Christ in the pre-existence but after they were born on earth became ‘sons of perdition,’ will be relegated to a place of spiritual darkness devoid of any glory referred to as hell. …
“According to the justice and mercy of God, children who die before the age of accountability, the mentally handicapped, and the heathen are innocent and not capable of sinning — therefore have no need of repentance — and are automatically received unto Christ in the next life.”
Wrong measuring stick
Christopher Fontenot, of Baton Rouge, wrote: “Christianity in America for the most part is an abject failure. …
“We in America believe that people are basically good and sometimes we do some bad things. The Bible tells us that we are all bad and sometimes we do some good things. Polls reveal some 50 percent of Americans believe that good people will end up in heaven. Well, there are simply no good people. Don’t get me wrong, some are better than others and most are better than me. But according to God’s standard of what is good and what is not, we are all in deep trouble. …
“We compare ourselves to one another and think we are ‘good to go’ to heaven. But we always seem to compare ourselves to Hitler or Stalin or Casey Anthony or Derrick Todd Lee. We never compare ourselves to the only standard, Jesus.”
William DeBruyn, of Denham Springs, said, “One can’t serve two masters. Serve God, and eternal life is promised. Serve Satan, eternal pain and suffering. Serving Satan doesn’t mean that you are evil as in doing people wrong. ... Just being good and helpful is a deception of Satan if you think it will get you into heaven. ... So yes, a lot of ‘good people’ are going to hell.”
Gene Gayle, a missionary to Piura, Peru, wrote: “Heaven is where the habitation of God is. For those who put their faith in Christ and what he did on the cross, he gives the promise of building a place for you and returning to get you and bring you there.
“In regards to hell, it is a place of uttermost anguish and torment. God does not send man there, but rather man chooses to go by rejecting Christ, and what he did on the cross for them. This is why we go with the wonderful message of the Gospel!”
Jan Garrett, of Baton Rouge, wrote: “Heaven is being in God’s presence for eternity. Heaven is available to those who choose to believe in Jesus Christ whom God sent to offer us a way out of our sinful lives into a life with hope and inner peace while on earth.
“Hell is being separated from God for eternity. It is a horrible place reserved for those who choose not to personally believe in Jesus Christ and His salvation message.”
Debbie Teegarden, of Prairieville, wrote:
“I believe that Heaven is a place far more beautiful than words or our minds can comprehend. ...
“If you live a life of evil and sin, without God and not accept Jesus as your Saviour, you will most definitely go to hell ... and suffer more torture than imaginable.
“I believe all of those who live for today with unnecessary material possessions, step on others at work or school trying to get ahead, live in sin, and commit crimes of man or God — they will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
A turn at verse
Reflecting on heaven and hell brought two readers to send poetry.
Sheryl Snellings, of Baton Rouge, wrote in part:
“Heaven is outstanding, filled with peace and great light. ... Hell is hot and anguish is a very common sight.
Keith John Paul Horcasitas, of Baton Rouge, wrote:
“Purgatory purifies, allows correction
“I can be reborn, made anew
“His Grace is sufficient for this too
“By free will I must ultimately choose.”
Send ideas to Leila Pitchford-English, The Advocate, P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-0588; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.