In his book “The Great Divorce” C.S. Lewis wrote of the common misconceptions of heaven and hell that our world believes. For some, heaven is “pie in the sky”, a great reward that good people get for doing good things here on earth. And for others, heaven is a place where we get to see all of our old family again, reunite with friends, and have fun in eternity living in huge mansions and playing on harps.
Hell, in the imagination of many, is a lake of torment and fire – or it’s demons and pitchforks, or it’s “the outer darkness”, or something else. (Just watch any horror movie and you’ll get a new interpretation!) But all of these images are just shadow images – they may give a vague form, but they do no represent the reality of what is beyond.
The Bible uses many different images of heaven and hell, almost as if to show that no human words or thought can completely comprehend it. My best conception of heaven is living completely in the presence of God, and hell would be living in His absence.
I think of it like this: there are times when I have felt a supernatural sense of peace, calmness, and joy that are far beyond anything that I have experienced here on earth. There are also times when I have felt emptiness, darkness, and despair that leave me hollow. I cannot say that I have been completely in heaven or completely in hell, but I’ve gotten a taste of what each can be.
Paul says that “Now we see through a mirror dimly; then we shall see face-to-face.” I believe that means that Heaven and Hell are both with us, right now, at this moment. Right now you can taste the sweetness of Heaven; right now you can feel the emptiness of Hell. Both of those are just glimpses of what eternity will be like, either living with or without God. You get to choose Heaven or Hell right now, in this moment – we don’t have to wait! Our choices and our willingness to trust or doubt God here on this earth have eternal ramifications. We can choose to either see this world through God’s eyes, or our own.
When have you felt something so deep and so profound that you couldn’t explain it? A peace, a joy, an understanding that fills you with hope and longing? That would be one of those moments when you were able to touch eternity, and someday you will understand. Keep on praying, keep on believing, keep on hoping – and someday we shall SEE!