KING JESUS IS COMING FOR US ANY TIME NOW. THE RAPTURE. BE PREPARED TO GO.
REVELATION 21:1-27 (1000 YRS OVER, NEW REFURBISHED EARTH FOREVER WITH JESUS RULING)(FROM JERUSALEM)
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
8 But the fearful,(COWARDS) and unbelieving,(FALSE PRETENDERS) and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
9 And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.
10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
12 And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
13 On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.
14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof.
16 And the city (NEW JERUSALEM) lieth foursquare,(1,500 MILE-WIDE-HIGH) and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs.(1,500 MILES) The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.
17 And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits,(1,500 MILES) according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.
18 And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.
19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
20 The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.
21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.
25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there.
26 And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.
REVELATION 22:1-21 (ETERNITY FOREVER WITH JESUS)(ON EARTH)
1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
3 And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
4 And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
5 And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
6 And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.
7 Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
8 And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.
9 Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.
10 And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.
11 He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
13 I (JESUS) am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers,(DRUG ADDICTS-PUSHERS) and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book,(REVELATION) If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy,(BOOK OF REVELATION) God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
HELL AND ETERNAL PUNISHMENT IS REAL TO.
10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
RELATED WITH JUDGEMENT-HEAVEN-HELL
Why so many people–including scientists–suddenly believe in an afterlife
Heaven is hot again, and hell is colder than ever
Death, it seems, is no longer Shakespeare’s undiscovered country, the
one “from whose bourn no traveller returns.” Not according to
contemporary bestseller lists. Dreams and visions of the afterlife have
been constants across human history, and the near-death experiences (now
known as NDEs) of those whose lives were saved by medical advances have
established, for millions, a credible means by which someone could peek
into the next world. Lately a fair-sized pack of witnesses claim to
have actually entered into the afterlife before coming back again to
write mega-selling accounts of what they saw and felt there. Afterlife
speculation has become a vibrant part of the zeitgeist, the result of
trends that include developments in neuroscience that have inspired new
ideas about human consciousness, the ongoing evolution of theology, both
popular and expert, and the hopes and fears of an aging population.
Heaven is hot again. And hell is colder than ever.Recent polls across the developed world are starting to tell an
intriguing tale. In the U.S., religion central for the West, belief in
heaven has held steady, even ticking upwards on occasion, over the past
two decades. Belief in hell is also high, but even Americans show a gap
between the two articles of faith—81 per cent believed in the former in
2011, as opposed to 71 per cent accepting the latter. Elsewhere in the
Western world the gap between heaven and hell believers is more of a
gulf—a 2010 Canadian poll found more than half of us think there is a
heaven, while fewer than a third acknowledge hell. What’s more,
monotheism’s two destinations are no longer all that are on offer. In
December a survey of the 1970 British Cohort
group—9,000 people, currently 42 years old—found half believed in an
afterlife, while only 31 per cent believed in God. No one has yet delved
deeply into beliefs about the new afterlife—the cohort surveyors didn’t
ask for details—but reincarnation, in an newly multicultural West, is
one suggested factor. So too is belief in what one academic called “an
unreligious afterlife,” the natural continuation of human consciousness
after physical death.
While most of the current bestselling accounts of afterlife
experiences are recognizably Christian—at least in outline—signs of
changing beliefs can be found in them too. Nor are the new
travellers—who include a four-year-old boy and a middle-aged
neurosurgeon—what religious skeptics would think of as the usual
suspects. Colton Burpo, now 13, “died” 10 years ago from a ruptured
appendix, and spent three minutes of earthly time in heaven—some of it
in Jesus’s lap, some of it speaking with a miscarried sister whose
existence he had never been told about—before being pulled back to Earth
by his surgical team. Since 2010, when his father, Todd, a Nebraska
minister, published his account of what Colton told him, Heaven is for Real
has sold more than 7.5 million copies. If Colton’s story sounds like a
contemporary take on an ancient Christian motif—“unless you become as
little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew
18:3)—the same can’t be said about Eben Alexander’s post-religious
cosmic experience.It is Alexander’s provocatively named Proof of Heaven
released in November, that wrenched afterlife visitation literature out
of its below-the-radar religious publishing niche and into the
spotlight. Alexander’s professional stature—as a Harvard-trained
neurosurgeon, a man expected to know what is possible and what is not
for human consciousness—ensured him of extensive media coverage,
including on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday
, massive sales (it remains No. 1 on the New York Times
paperback non-fiction bestseller list), and often venomous responses from fellow scientists.Alexander woke one day in 2008 with an intense headache. “Within
hours, my entire cortex—the part of the brain that controls thought and
emotion and that in essence makes us human—had shut down,” he writes.
Doctors finally determined that “E. coli
penetrated my cerebrospinal fluid and were eating my brain.” For seven
days he was in a deep coma, during which time, often guided by a
beautiful girl riding a giant butterfly, he flew around the “invisible,
spiritual side of existence.” And there he encountered God, whom
Alexander frequently refers to as Om, the sound he recalls as “being
associated with that omniscient, omnipotent and unconditionally loving
God.”He eventually recovered, a medical miracle in itself, Alexander
writes. But he was an entirely different man, no longer a neuroscientist
like other neuroscientists. “I know that many of my peers hold—as I
myself did—to the theory that the brain, and in particular the cortex,
generates consciousness and that we live in a universe devoid of any
kind of emotion, much less the unconditional love that I now know God
and the universe have toward us. But that belief, that theory, now lies
broken at our feet. What happened to me destroyed it.”Not according to most of his fellow neuroscientists, whose reactions
made the predictable Christian wariness—no angels, no Jesus, and a God
named Om left Toronto pastor Tim Challies to sum up Proof of Heaven
“more New Age-y than the rest, close to non-Western religion”—seem
welcoming. Oliver Sacks called Alexander’s claims “not just unscientiﬁc
but anti-scientific.” Others opposed dogma with dogma: Alexander was
correct that by current neurological understanding what happened to him
was impossible if his cortex was shut down—therefore, they said, it
wasn’t shut down, no matter what his medical records say. Many skeptics
referenced British psychologist Susan Blackmore’s 1993 book, Dying to Live
, which dismisses NDEs as a result of chemical changes associated with dying brains, as the last word.
For their part, non-materialist neuroscientists, like University of
Montreal professor Mario Beauregard, have long critiqued Blackmore and
point out that brain research was in its infancy 20 years ago. Blackmore
argued that a lack of oxygen (or anoxia) during the dying process might
induce abnormal firing of neurons in the part of the brain that
controls vision, leading to the illusion of seeing a bright light at the
end of a dark tunnel.Beauregard cites objections by Dutch cardiologist Pim Van Lommel that
if anoxia (lack of oxygen) was central to NDEs, far more cardiac arrest
patients would report such an experience. What’s more, as pointed out
by Dr. Sam Parnia, whose resuscitation techniques have doubled his New
York hospital’s cardiac-arrest-recovery rate, some NDE patients were not
terminal during their experiences, meaning their oxygen levels were
normal. In fact, Parnia notes, dropping oxygen levels are associated
with “acute confusional state,” something at odds with the lucid
consciousness reported by NDE people.
Two decades of research and medical advances have moved near-death
experiences from rare events to common occurrences. In his book Erasing Death
Parnia cites a 30-year-old Japanese woman as the current record holder
(in terms of time) for someone who was found dead and restored to life.
She “may have been dead up to 10 hours,” Parnia says, but after six
hours’ work, doctors got her heart started and brought her back to
health: “she had a baby in the last year.” Now that patients who have
been clinically dead for hours can be brought back to life, says Parnia,
the question of the continuation of human consciousness is a live
scientific issue.And it’s not only the remarkable extension of the time patients can
now spend suspended between life and death, but the sheer number of
individuals involved, that has made NDEs so contentious among
researchers. Those whose NDEs also involved an out-of-body experience
raise the stakes further.Materialist skeptics are not troubled by accounts of tunnels of light
or angelic beings. Perhaps the dying brain hypothesis doesn’t fully
explain them, but there are other possibilities. Too much carbon dioxide
in the blood perhaps or, as a recent study from the University of
Kentucky posits, NDEs are really an instance of a sleep disorder, rapid
eye movement (REM) intrusion. In that disorder, a person’s mind can wake
up before his body, and both hallucinations and the sensation of being
physically detached from the body can occur. Cardiac arrest could
trigger a REM intrusion in the brain stem—the region that controls the
most basic functions of the body and which can operate independently
from the (now dead) higher brain. The resulting NDE would actually be a
dream.But that hypothesis still cannot account for people who report
seeing, during their out-of-body experiences, what they could not have.
Most commonly that’s an overhead view of their frantic medical teams.
Parnia reports a 2001 case, in which a Dutch patient’s dentures were
removed during cardiac arrest. When his nurses couldn’t find the
dentures later, the patient was able to remind them where they were.
Perhaps the most famous corroborated case, cited by Beauregard, is that
of a migrant worker named Maria, whose story was documented by her
critical care social worker, Kimberly Clark. The day after she had been
resuscitated after cardiac arrest, Maria told Clark how she had been
able to look down from the ceiling and left the OR. She found herself
outside the hospital and spotted a tennis shoe on the ledge of the north
side of the building’s third floor. She described it in detail. Maria,
not surprisingly, wanted to know whether she had “really” seen the shoe,
and asked Clark to go look.Quite skeptical, Clark went where Maria sent her, and found the
tennis shoe, just as she’d described it. “The only way she could have
had such a perspective,” said Clark, “was if she had been floating right
outside and at very close range to the tennis shoe.” It shouldn’t have
been possible, as both Beauregard and Parnia point out. “The question
becomes,” Parnia says, “how can people have conscious awareness when
they’ve gone beyond the threshold of death?”The answer to that question is not necessarily Christian, or even
metaphysical at all, not for Parnia, who describes himself as “not a
religious person” and not for many of his fellow NDE researchers. In a
similar vein, many traditional Christians are more than a little wary of
the reported experiences of the heaven travellers. For them the idea—so
intolerable to materialist skeptics—that consciousness, or the soul,
can and does exist outside the body is an article of faith. But some of
the new afterlife, however seemingly Christian in outline, is often
troubling, especially in its utter lack of judgment. All are welcome,
all are heaven-bound in those accounts: there is no sign of God’s wrath
for sinners. The division over the possibility of continuing human
consciousness is not entirely between the religious and the secular. And
the extraordinary popularity of heaven tourism—books have continued to
pour down the publishing pike this year, including I Believe in Heaven
by Cecil Murphy, one of the pioneers in the genre—is not entirely driven by evangelical enthusiasm.
In that regard, the storm stirred up by Proof of Heaven
obscures the wider significance of the afterlife books. The controversy
over the scientific basis of Alexander’s experiences, like the
skeptical poking for holes in the Burpo story—can Colton’s parents
really be sure he never heard a word about his mother’s miscarriage?—can
miss the cultural forest for the factual trees.Consider the many other near-death survivors-cum-authors and their
places along the continuum, from pastor’s son to neurosurgeon. There’s
Mary Neal, an orthopaedic surgeon whose account of the aftermath of her
drowning in Chile in 1999, To Heaven and Back
, has spent two years on bestseller lists; teacher Crystal McVea, whose Waking Up in Heaven
tells the story of the nine minutes that followed after she stopped breathing in 2009; The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven
is about six-year-old Alex Malarkey, who met Jesus after an car
accident in 2004; and Texas pastor Don Piper, whose 2004 account
(co-written with Cecil Murphy) of his car crash, 90 Minutes in Heaven
, is often credited with kick-starting the phenomenon.There are elements, from key plot points to tiny details, that link
their stories, starting with two obvious points. The idea that major
scientists no longer dismiss the idea of continuing consciousness
colours all accounts, as does the fact that, whether truth or fantasy,
the experiences are necessarily culturally specific.All overwhelming and bewildering mental states have to be sorted,
defined and made comprehensible in the light of the familiar—what else
do our brains have to work with? One way or another, a pastor’s child
and a fallen-away Christian like Alexander will filter an NDE through
the earliest Sunday school tracks laid down in their memories. Elisabeth
Kübler-Ross, first famous for her five stages of grief, later became a
doyenne of NDEs—her lectures on her NDE patients (who turned her into a
believer), first published in 1991, were reissued in 2008 to catch the
current publishing wave. Even in her rather homogenous western European
clientele, Kübler-Ross could see the effects of early enculturation: “I
never encountered a Protestant child who saw the Virgin Mary in his last
minutes, yet she was perceived by many Catholic children.”Many of the writers share a common gaping wound, centred on lost
children, a wound usually healed by simultaneously finding the child and
realizing there is no blame or judgment to suffer, no forgiveness to
offer or seek. Most of Colton Burpo’s account is a child’s-eye account
of orthodox teaching, but its most affecting passage is when he lifts
years of guilt and anxiety off his mother, Sonja, by telling her that
her miscarried child had been a girl, and that she was now flourishing
in heaven as God’s adopted daughter. One of Kübler-Ross’s patients, a
12-year-old girl, told her father how she was comforted during her NDE
by her brother. Except that she didn’t have a brother. Her tearful
father then told her about the son who had died three months before her
birth.Eben Alexander, who—unlike most NDE cases—lost all sense of personal
identity during his experience, was troubled because that loss meant no
relative offered him assurances of love and acceptance. Afterwards
though, Alexander—an adopted child who had felt abandoned his whole
life—saw a picture of his deceased natural sister, whom he had never met
in life. She was the girl on the butterfly. (There is more than a trace
of Kübler-Ross’s influence in Proof of Heaven
. The butterfly
girl stands out as one of the more psychedelic elements in an account
mostly abstract and metaphysical: Kübler-Ross, however, constantly
describes the human body as a cocoon, from which a metaphorical
butterfly of spirit will eventually emerge.)
And the stories offer similar proofs: Colton, like Kübler-Ross’s
patient, inexplicably knew of a lost sibling, whose existences their
parents believed they had kept hidden, while Eben Alexander could
describe precisely what his medical team and his family were doing
during his seven-day coma. They are all, even the children, witnesses
who experienced what they did—and came back, reluctantly—for a reason.
Mary Neal was sent back with what she called “a laundry list of tasks to
do,” which she still doesn’t talk about, at least not until they are
accomplished: one was to help the rest of her family cope with the
foretold death of her young son, which occurred 10 years later in 2009.
Colton and Alex provide truth “out of the mouths of babes.” Alexander
knows he is uniquely positioned among NDE subjects to challenge the
materialist orthodoxies of mainstream neuroscience.Those similarities in form pale beside the deep thematic link between
the new bestsellers: the (previously) undiscovered country is a place
of unconditional love. Several of the writers pause, sometimes for
pages, to stress the adjective as much as the noun. None express the
message more clearly than Alexander, who writes that “the only thing
that truly matters” was communicated to him in three parts. He boils
those down to one word—love—but the key phrase may be the third sentence
of his longer version:
You are loved and cherished.
You have nothing to fear.
There is nothing you can do wrong.
That’s fodder for cynics and skeptics, of course. That an individual
like any of the authors, someone of broadly Christian background coping
with emotional pain, should undergo such a heaven-centred experience
when in the throes of physical trauma, is broadly predictable and easy
to dismiss as wish-fulfillment. The fact it has happened to a group of
such similar individuals does not in itself prove the truth (or the
falsity) of the experiences; what that does, though, is illuminate a
culture that increasingly rejects the very notion of judgment while
equating salvation with personal healing.Most observers trace the current upsurge to Don Piper’s 90 Minutes in Heaven
. Largely ignored by the non-religious world and looked at askance by many Christian commentators, 90 Minutes
sold like hotcakes. And while it set the template for what was to come,
what stands out about it today is its modesty. Piper was declared dead
at the scene of an auto crash on Jan. 18, 1989. His body was left in
place while the authorities waited for the tools needed to extract him
from the wreckage. An hour and a half later, though, Piper stirred back
to life, albeit to a long and excruciating recovery, involving 34
painful surgeries.And to bear witness to where he had been in that 90 minutes. In the
transcendent light, actually, just outside the “pearlescent” gates of
heaven, surrounded by “perfect love” and the gathering
presence—simultaneously physical and spiritual—of loved ones who had
died during Piper’s lifetime. There were friends who had passed away
young and were thus still youthful looking; his grandfather, instantly
recognizable by his shock of white hair; and his great-grandmother,
still aged but now no longer with false teeth, but her own restored, no
longer stooped and no longer wrinkled. Signs of age, in other words, and
of the gravitas they confer, but no traces of the “ravages of living.”All this—the approach to the pearly gates, the welcome from loved
ones, the presence of unconditional love and the absence of judgment—was
pregnant with accounts to come. But, as it turned out, 90 Minutes’
first-born—the genetic relationship obvious in their titles, not to
mention the way Amazon bundled them together for a special low price—was
the most striking outlier in recent afterlife literature, Bill Wiese’s 23 Minutes in Hell
A California realtor, Wiese was sleeping peacefully on the night of
Nov. 22, 1998, when God pitched him into hell at 3 a.m., so that—Wiese
later decided—he could warn others of their peril. He landed abruptly in
a five-by-three-metre cell, shared with two gigantic, evil, reptilian
beasts who proceeded to smash him against the walls before shredding his
flesh.Yet Wiese did not die, could not die, as much as he wanted to. He
continued in seemingly endless pain, tormented too by “the terrible,
foul stench.” (Smell—the most evocative of senses, the one most closely
tied to deep memory—is prominent in accounts of heaven as well, where it
brings visitors the most comforting reminders of childhood and, when
the odours arise from food, assurances of plenty.) At precisely 3:23
a.m., Jesus rescued Wiese and returned him home, where he landed,
terrified, on his living room floor.The book, published in 2006, spawned no serious imitators. In part
that was due to its lack of the scientific gloss the heaven narratives
bear (and the times demand)—one Christian nurse, posting on Amazon,
rejected 23 Minutes because of her familiarity with NDEs. There is no
explanatory traffic accident, cardiac arrest or brain-eating bacteria,
nothing to indicate a hovering between life and death when the sufferer
could peek through the curtain, nothing that didn’t point to a (very)
bad dream.But Wiese’s book also went nowhere because hell no longer possesses
the power it once held in Christianity. That’s particularly remarkable
within an American religious milieu that was always attentive to
warnings of hellfire. In 1741 Jonathan Edwards delivered what is often
called the most famous sermon in American history, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God
It is beautifully composed, rigorously logical (in terms of Calvinist
theology) and frankly terrifying: “Men are held in the hand of God over
the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already
sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked.” Edwards was
interrupted often during the sermon by congregants moaning and crying
out, “What shall I do to be saved?” It’s doubtful he’d receive the same
reaction today. Many modern Christians struggle to reconcile a loving
God with one who would condemn the majority of humankind to eternal
Within Roman Catholicism, notes Smith College world religion
professor Carol Zaleski, the last three pontiffs, including Pope
Francis, have all been supportive of the late Swiss theologian Hans Urs
von Balthasar, who taught that Catholics have a duty to hope and pray
for an empty hell, for the salvation of all. Even those Protestant
traditions that have historically been more attuned to the gulf between
the elect and the damned have seen vigorous theological debate about the
afterlife, and the defence of ideas that effectively weaken the
severity of divine wrath. Conditional immortality, for one, says true
eternal life is reserved for the saved; souls in hell will
eventually—and, in this context, mercifully—be annihilated.“Most people are no longer afraid of being seized at an unguarded
moment,” judged wanting and ﬂung into the ﬁery pit like Edwards’s
congregants were, says Zaleski. “We are now more creatures of anxiety
than of guilt.” The anxiety, as well as the interest, is surely tied to
the greying of the Western world too, as our thoughts, conscious or not,
increasingly turn to what’s next, whether we think that’s oblivion or
some kind of afterlife. Baby boomers, by sheer force of numbers, have
always driven cultural trends, from the lowering of voting and drinking
ages in their youth to the politically untouchable status of retirement
benefits today. It’s hardly surprising to see them favour not just the
existence but the congenial nature of an afterlife.And that is where the heaven tourists finally mesh, not just with
each other, but with the larger culture. We seem to be moving inexorably
from a society where organized religion dominates issues of
morality—and mortality—but not to the secular promised land of reason.
Rather, we are orienting ourselves to a more personal spirituality, at
once vague and autonomous. Ordinary sinners increasingly don’t believe
that they deserve judgment, let alone hell. Theists and atheists alike
dispute any earthly authority’s right to judge, and both feel NDEs give
them reason to hope for something beyond the grave. And many believers
confidently expect that God isn’t judgmental either.