Heaven can wait: Three Views of Heaven

Heaven can waitHeaven can wait: Three Views of Heaven.

If you’re good, then when you die, you’ll go to heaven.  This seems to be the traditional Christian view.  In fact, Jesus never said any such thing. 

The ideas of a glorious hereafter for some souls and torment for others, to come at the point of death, cannot be found either in the Old Testament or in the teachings of the historical Jesus. To put it succinctly: the founder of Christianity did not believe that the soul of a person who died would go to heaven or hell. (Ehrman, p 16)

Ehrman is correct, but he is making some implicit distinctions that are not obvious.  Jesus believed in the resurrection of the body, not the soul.  Jesus also believed that the Kingdom of Heaven would be established on earth, not somewhere in the sky.  So, one could just as well say that Jesus believed in a glorious life after death for some, and death for others.  Hell plays a relatively small role in Jesus’ teaching. 

Three views of the afterlife

Three views of the afterlife are present in the Bible.  The third is implicit, and probably the most important.  The three are:

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On Jesus as zealot

On Jesus as zealot.

Reza Aslan’s Zealot is the best book on the historical Jesus I’ve ever read.  Part of what makes it so interesting is Aslan’s ambivalence.  Had Jesus not been transformed from a zealot whose only interest was the liberation of the Jews from Rome into a universal man-God, Christianity would not have survived.  It would never have been created in the first place.  But the survival and prosperity of Christianity came at a cost: the loss not only of its Jewish roots, but its political program of equality and justice. Or so Aslan argues.

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