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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






17 January 2011

Levels of Heaven and Hell


Q: Are there different levels to heaven or hell? If so, what are they?

A. Regarding hell, unbelievers will suffer condemnation and eternal separation from God in both body and soul (see Matthew 18:8; 25:46; Mark 9:43; John 3:36; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Jude 13; Revalation 14:11). While the damned will experience indescribable torment, varying degrees may be determined by the nature of the sins to be punished (Matthew 11:20-24; 23:15; Luke 12:47-48).

As for what some term the “degrees of glory” in heaven, the Scriptures depict eternal life as a state of never-ending “blessedness.” This means that Christians will live forever in perfect freedom from sin, death, the devil, and every evil (Isaiah 25:8; 49:10; 1 Corinthians 15:26, 55-57; Revelation 2:7, 11; 20:14; 21:4). They will also enjoy the never-ending joy of being with God in the new heavens and new earth (e.g., Revelation 21-22; Psalm 16:11). Falling away from God will be impossible.

This blessedness includes the joy of being in eternal communion with our fellow believers. Matthew 17:3 hints that we may well recognize them when we are translated to glory. While all the saints will enjoy unlimited happiness and blessed peace, there will be degrees of glory corresponding to differences of deeds and faithfulness while on earth. This will result in even greater praise to God but will provoke no envy among the saved (see 2 Corinthians 9:6; Matthew 20:23).

Article reposted to answer a question on the Facebook Ask the Pastor group page.

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Walter Snyder is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author of the book What Do Lutherans Believe, and writer of numerous published devotions, prayers, and sermons.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is being described in 2 Cor 12:12?

"I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows."

18 January, 2011 15:27  
Blogger Not Alone +++ PAS said...

2 Cor. 12:2
St. Paul himself does not say. Those commentators who seem to have at least something of value to say point to the perspective of Eph. 4:10 and Heb. 7:26 and presume the first heavens to be those that surround the earth, the second being the outer space of the planets and stars, and the third heaven being the abode of God and His saints beyond the cosmos we now inhabit. Rev. 21:1 speaks of "a new heaven and a new soil (gen)." In 2 Cor 2:3 St. Paul seems to equate paradise with the 3rd heaven. Since time is God's creation for the angels and for man, it seems that the saying of the angels in Luke 2:14 declares something too high for even the angels to enter. A number of Scriptural passages refer to God Himself as the Highest. As the ONLY eternal one, the one who IS, He is beyond any time limited creature.

It is important not to reach beyond the point that St. Paul is making. His point is not to try to tell us what cannot be told, but to show that those who boast of knowledge of such things are not to be trusted. He was countering those who were seeking to set themselves as visionaries beyond the apostles and beyond what the Lord revealed through the apostles. St. Paul is telling us that such things of which they boast are not what the Holy Spirit directs us to seek to know.

11 February, 2011 10:49  

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