Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Will Everyone Go to Heaven?

The idea that maybe everyone will end up in heaven has always floated around in Christianity, since the earliest times.  It seems as though St. Paul and the other apostles had to write to combat this view in the churches they had founded.  In Corinth, for example, the idea seemed to be circulating either that everyone would inherit the kingdom of God, or at least all Christians would, regardless of their behavior.  So St. Paul writes to warn:

1Cor. 6:9   Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.  11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

St. Paul’s words remind us of what Jesus himself says, concerning who will enter the kingdom of heaven:

Matt. 7:21   “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’ 

It is interesting that Jesus says “many” will claim to have done great things for him, and yet Jesus will not recognize them and, indeed, will affirm that they are “evildoers.”  It’s not clear how this passage can be reconciled with the idea that everyone will eventually enter the kingdom of heaven (if that is understood as “heaven” or “eternal life” or “the life to come”).

The question of whether universal salvation is compatible with Scriptural revelation is very important, but not the question I wish to address in these posts.  Rather, I’d like to look at the question more phenomenologically and philosophically:  I would like to assert that it is not possible for everyone to go to heaven unless God were to over-rule the free will and desires of large numbers of human beings, and that is something that God does not do.  He does not overpower our free will.  He will not force any of us to love him, because love cannot be forced.  And heaven is the freely-willed, eternal loving-and-being-loved of God.  God won’t make anyone participate in it who doesn’t want to. 

(to be continued)

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