There’s no doubt I know more about Hell than Heaven. Heaven seems to be mentioned more, but Hell has more variety of descriptors. I’ll analyze this more in a minute, but I guess I want to just start off by rattling off some biblical phrases that come to mind when I think of Heaven and Hell. (Ok, I’m laying on the couch, let the response therapy begin. Wait, should I be listening to Stairway to Heaven and Highway to Hell. No, there could be subliminal messages that distort my answers, good thinking.)
Streets of Gold and the Pearly Gates
No more Pain or Tears
I’m Going to Get to Do Something with Crowns
We Get a New, Indestructible Body
Lots of Worship with Angels and People
Our Loved Ones and Saints of Old
The Presence of God and the One and Only Jesus!
Flame that Never Goes Out
Worm that Never Dies
Sulfur and Brimstone (I’ll be honest not real sure what these are)
A Place of Darkness and Loneliness
Created for Satan and his Demons
Day and Night of Torment
A Low Pit of Despair
The Deepest Grave Imaginable
A Holding Place before the Lake of Fire
The spirit realm of disembodied souls
Alone yet Hearing Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth
So why are there more descriptions of Hell than Heaven in the Bible (or at least more memorable descriptions)? I actually think the bigger issue is that we pastors and evangelists talk about Hell more. I think there’s a couple reasons:
1) Negative Reinforcements Is More Effective
I think we are more scared of Hell than excited for Heaven. Fear is a stronger reaction than anticipation. Whether we mean to or not, I think often time we present the choice of Heaven and Hell as opposed to Jesus or Not. This is actually really dangerous because it can create a false sense of security. Who in their right mind would choose Hell over Heaven? (Only Burnt-out losers want to go to Hell. John Leguizamo in his underrated performance in the movie Spawn put it best, “How come God hogs up all the good followers, and we’re left with the rejects?”) Fear mongering might invoke a quicker reaction, but then people walk away knowing more about Hell than the one who came to rescue them from it.
2) We Have Pain on Earth and Thus Can Somewhat Describe Hell
I think perhaps we almost “connect” more with the descriptions of Hell because there are some relatable elements here on earth. Fire, loneliness, and evil are things we know and in varying forms have interacted with. When I think about dying on this earth, I know I don’t want to be burned to death, or die all alone, or be tortured, or eaten alive by tiny larvae. When I even think about Hell, a chill runs down my spine. When I think about it being an eternity, I get sick to my stomach. It definitely leads me to being thankful for Jesus saving me. I think we all get such a visceral reaction from the descriptions from Hell, because we worry about all those things in this present life.
3) We Don’t Have Whatever the Heck Is in Heaven.
On the other hand, we have no idea what Heaven is like really. It’s so great that human words fail to describe. Paul was even kind of depressed after coming back from a glimpse of Heaven, because this world is so bleak in comparison. So how are we supposed to be excited about something that can’t be adequately explained? Adults have real trouble with this. Kids do better. Kids can actually be excited about things like Christmas presents. Like this kid…
But as we have gotten older, we’ve been jaded. Christmas is now filled with Starbucks gift cards and ill-fitting clothes. Movie trailers pitch the greatest film experience of all time, and nothing can deliver on that kind of hype. So we end of saying, “Yeah Heaven’s going to be pretty great.” But it lacks genuine passion that is unmistakable. The problem is, once again we have focused on the wrong thing.
4) Jesus Is in Heaven!!!
You know how to be genuinely excited about Heaven? Don’t worry about “what” is there, but rather “who” is there. Jesus is going to be in heaven! The Bible might not give a bunch of useful descriptions about Heaven, but there’s a crap-ton of description about Jesus. When you start learning about this guy, and praying to this guy, you will be stoked about actually meeting this guy. As you get to know Him more, the desire to see Him face-to-face can become almost palpable. Don’t get caught up in descriptions of Heaven and Hell. Talk about Jesus. He is the Most Interesting Man in the World Universe.
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