STEPHEN JONES, pastor, First Baptist Church, Kansas City: Heaven and hell must be considered together. Jesus’ prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as in heaven,” speaks of heaven among us. We introduce heaven by showing compassion.
So heaven is a present reality and a future promise.
Recent terrorism in Paris speaks of hell on earth. Hell as a future reality isn’t a place. It’s a theological idea to hold us accountable. Would God find pleasing a selfish life? No, God calls us to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly. (Micah 6:8)
Love includes accountability, and if we do not face immediate consequences of our greed, there are future consequences. That is where hell comes in.
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As a child, I was taught that the “saved” would enjoy eternal life and the “lost” burn in hell. As an adult, I don’t find those dichotomies helpful. The world doesn’t divide that easily.
No one knows exactly what eternity holds. As we are created in the image of God, God’s love is eternal.
We will never fully understand God. The Bible never condemns slavery, and yet we now agree it is evil. Thus, our idea of a loving God expands. I have a difficult time thinking of eternal punishment. I can’t imagine anything that would separate my children from my love forever.
So I find myself in that awkward place of believing in accountable love for the way we live our lives. And believing that there are better ways of considering that accountability beyond the theological construct of eternal damnation.
ELDER DONALD D. DESHLER, of the Seventy, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: God’s plan of salvation for the human family beautifully balances justice and mercy. This is apparent even when considering the nature of hell.
We can think of hell in three ways. First, in this life, hell is a condition of guilt and misery that a person feels who comes to the remorseful realization of one’s own sins through disobedience to God’s law(s). Persons experiencing this kind of hell can be relieved and rescued from their suffering through sincere repentance and obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Second, after we die, our spirit and body are separated. Hell is a place in the postmortal world for the spirits of those (1) who died without a knowledge of the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and (2) for those who were disobedient in mortality and who failed to repent.
This is a temporary state. Spirits will be taught the Gospel, have the opportunity to repent, and accept ordinances of salvation. Those who accept the Gospel will dwell in paradise until the Resurrection and final judgment.
Thus, there is hope through the Atonement of Christ for those who accept the savior and who chose to repent of their sins during this time.
Third, for Satan, his followers and the sons of perdition (John 17:12), who are not redeemed by the Atonement, hell is a permanent place. These individuals will receive no forgiveness because they have committed the unpardonable sin.
That is, they have denied the witness that they were given by the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ (Matthew 12:31-32).
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