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The End of the World, Part II

December 9, 2012

As we draw near to the apparent end of the world on December 21 (I don’t believe there is any evidence that anything will happen; and if God decides to wrap things up on Earth in ways man cannot stop then, well, I think he’s being a little unoriginal), let us reflect on what it means to have eternal life. The Bible indicates that through Christ’s power, we are spared Hell and even more than that, given life everlasting (John 3:16, as most people of that vain know). There is a certain Jewish song played at Passover Seders, called “Dai Enu,” a song that indicates that God not only did this, but even more. God is certainly gracious if he would grant us not only saving grace, but life everlasting. I think it is good to reflect on that song when we think of God. But I think it is a great gift to be alive and sentient at all.

Eternal life, then, would be an extension of that tremendous gift of being alive and conscious. Does anyone know how wonderful it is to simply be? And not only that, but able to conceive of being? It is a truly wonderful gift. If there is no life hereafter, I am glad to have been alive at all, and to credit that life, in one way or another, to not only my parents who deigned to give birth to me but also a divine, infinite creator who was nice enough to give me life. So the hereafter is not really important inasmuch as the present, the now, is important. That I live my life in joy and celebration of life itself is the grand prerogative. Not only did God let us live and thrive, but he gave us life, not only did God give us the ability to thrive, but to live with him in heaven, whether the idea of that is allegory or not, it is beautiful.

That said, one does get tired. Life sometimes gets overwhelming, and at times I feel the desire for a long bout of rest. And even as I am young I feel this desire to expire someday; that does not mean that maybe someday I will live again. The eternal life rubric seemingly given to us in Revelation is austere. In my first post, I talked on this in brief, but must be broached again. The fifteen-hundred foot-tall wall of Revelation, as said, sounds more like a prison than anything else. And what of the 144,000? Jehovah’s Witnesses believe this number to be exhaustive, and that the people living in Heaven after the resurrection will only be them. Surely, the New Jerusalem has not enough room to fit generations upon generations of humans who have lived by faith. Only a select few can live there, right?

But I have a much more magnificent vision of Heaven, far more magnificent than the Bible delineates. I want to imagine a Heaven deep in outer space, all over the universe, where we will always travel and never stay in one place for long (unless we want to); a Heaven of limitless possibilities once thought impossible; a Heaven filled with worship as we have never known it on Earth, where we transcend fleshly weakness for something far greater, and we can veritably look however we want. I want to believe in a Heaven like that. A Heaven where we will soar, as the hymnist said, to worlds unknown. A Heaven of music, dancing, celebration, joy, and indeed, danger, but never danger that would impose death.

And maybe even that life will expire after long millenniums of singing and joy, in anticipation of something even greater, but not without working towards it with sweat on our brows. Maybe another time of tears will come, and then another time of joy, each period relative to the last, forever. Maybe the dust that made us who and what we are, which all came from the same Earth, will go to other Earths, and this “quintessence of dust” as Shakespeare called it, is in fact the eternity we all look forward to. Maybe eternal life is so complex that we can never understand or wrap our heads around us. And that’s why I look forward to it. The danger and the mystery of it enamors me much more than the certainty or the comfort of the simple knowledge that I will never die.

That said, I have all the more reason to take thrill and to fear death. I should live my life to the fullest, taking in everything that I can, giving all that I can, learning all that I can, seeing all that I can. My Bible teacher in high school valued “dying a happy man” and this is an updated Pascal’s Wager: God grants a kind of Joy that can never be outweighed. Eternal life is a consolation prize. Knowing God is the true gift.

I am willing to believe, finally, that eternal life is a fable if Hell is the alternative. I have tried to weasel Hell out of my beliefs for the simple fact that some people who die and starve and suffer in Africa and in other parts of the world will never know God the way Christians assert they should. I would rather have this be “it” instead of there being a Hell. Are we so dangerous, so potential, that God would burn us for eternity? There must be some kind of trick to this. There must be some way that all that is Good, represented in us, Atheists or Christians, Pagans or Believers, will reach Heaven. Certainly there is good in the sufferer or the victim, in spite of their lack of faith in God.

And that is why I must have some kind of belief in Purgatory, however detrimental it is. I have proposed (maybe to God, maybe to my suffering doctrine, or both) that there is one of four “spheres” that someone will go to when they die, depending on age. There the evil is purged from them, and in the end, whether it turns them into a different being entirely or just makes them more of what they are, they become “good” and set to live in Heaven. I have at least toyed around with the idea that the lake of fire must be allegory. I just can’t believe in something so awful and wretched.

Eternal life has always seemed boring to me if there are not the things listed here. Judgment day is apparently coming, according to Christians, but why do we desire a final battle, a reckoning of sorts? Why do we want Justice to flow like a mighty river, instead of a simple mass extinction, like the dinosaurs went out? We will explore why in Part III.

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From → Philosophy, Poetry

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