Almost every assertion we make only begets a new question. If we claim that heaven is a spiritual existence with God, then what is hell? We can’t really call it a spiritual existence without God because God is omnipresent, existing in all places at all times. Even the unsaved will spend eternity with God then. Hell may be better described as an eternal existence against God, an eternity of living in unchanging, irrevocable opposition against that which you can never change, the overwhelming presence of God’s omnipotent Spirit.
Mankind’s ongoing problem is that we are born as creatures of the flesh, and as such, we are in natural opposition to things of the spirit. We live in the flesh which goes against the grain of the spirit. And since God is the One True Spirit, we end up in a natural, lifelong opposition to Him. This is the battle between spirit and flesh, between good and evil that we are all destined to fight. It is an internal Armageddon going on inside all of us. This battle going on within the hearts of men could well be in perfect accordance with God’s plan for us. This battle in and for the hearts of men may be how all flesh is eventually brought into willing subjugation to the greater Spirit, the Spirit of the one, true and eternal God.
God is Spirit and in due time all of mankind will know that fleshy concerns are but a fleeting, vain, seventy to eighty year pursuit to nowhere. All flesh and the pleasures thereof shall die. The Spirit is eternal however, and the fruits of the Spirit shall last forever. In this way shall every knee eventually bend to the One True Spirit; to almighty God. There is no choice here; mortal flesh will always die, spirit will always live forever. God’s wisdom will eventually sink far enough into the fleshy, shortsighted brain of mankind however, that we will actually start thinking and behaving as if our fleshy life is brief and our spiritual life eternal.
As mankind grows and becomes slowly wiser in our ways, so shall our increasing wisdom eventually lead us to wantonly pursue the things of the spirit and slowly abandon the things of the flesh. This is what God wants for us; the willing subjugation of flesh to spirit. This eventual defeat of flesh by spirit is God’s final victory over evil. It is not something that will be forced on us. It is a way of living that mankind is destined to eventually learn.
God wishes us to spend our earthly lives preparing for an eternity of life beyond our flesh, to be in better sync for life in heaven. This would be done by detaching ourselves as much as possible from things that have to do with the desires and pleasures of the flesh; things like sumptuous, expensive dining when we could easily live healthily off eggs, oatmeal, fruit, milk, etc, and be left with more money to help the poor. Other examples of things that bind us to the flesh are sex, alcohol and drugs, luxury cars and homes, expensive clothing, luxuries of any kind or even necessities of life that we have more than enough of.
If we abstain from these things we spend less money and have more left over. It becomes easier then to part with that extra money and give more to the poor. As we get more accustomed to parting with our extra money, we naturally reduce our love of money and the earthly things it can buy. In this way do we better prepare ourselves to be free from earthly, fleshy desires at the moment of our death when our immortal spirit must suddenly begin eternity without any fleshy pleasures at all.
It is possible that a person who dies with the love of money, sex, or carnal luxury still strong in his heart carries the love of those things with him into eternity. Once there it is no longer possible to change, his spirit is forever fixed in that state of love for those carnal, fleshy things which he can never again possess. The person is then self-condemned to long eternally for that which he can no longer have; to live forever as a spirit in need of what only the flesh can experience. This is the choice between living eternally in sync with God, or eternally living against God. It is the choice between heaven and hell.
All of us are caught somewhere in the middle however, doing the best we can in our battle between flesh and spirit. We fight against our insecurities and greed when it comes to parting with our wealth in order to help others. We all have different degrees of success and we can all do more. We’re not completely carnal, we’re not totally selfish but we’re certainly not even close to being totally spiritual either. And this is pretty much the way we will be at the moment of death, partially carnal and partially spiritual. Does this mean that some of us will have a better life after death than others. That kind of notion implies that there might be a type of spiritual hierarchy in heaven but does Scripture support that notion?
In the days before he was beheaded by King Herod, John the Baptist sent two of his men to find Jesus Christ with a question for him. It was a question regarding Christ’s identity which was odd because when John baptized Christ earlier, he also correctly identified him as the Lamb of God. Nevertheless, the men found Jesus, and delivered the question. Christ went onto perform many miracles in the sight of these men and then sent them back to John with instructions to tell the baptist of the miracles they had seen him perform. After they left, Christ spoke very highly of John, telling the people that he was not only a prophet, but a prophet whose arrival on the scene was the fulfillment of earlier prophecy. But Christ ended his praise of John by telling the people that whoever might be least in the Kingdom of God was still greater than John the Baptist was on earth.
Paraphrased from Luke 7:19-28
If Christ speaks of some who are least in the Kingdom, as he did in that passage, then clearly there are others who are greater and still others who are somewhere in between. There are also other Scriptures which support the idea of different levels of existence in the Kingdom of Heaven. In Matthew 5:19 Christ speaks of different actions which can lead to being least or greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven and in Matthew 18:4, Christ tells us that the humble are greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Scripture, as it comes from the words of Jesus Christ himself, clearly supports different hierarchies or levels of existence in the heavenly afterlife. It also connects those levels of heavenly existence to our former earthly life. Those who are humble on earth are greatest in heaven and those who break the commandments and teach others to do likewise on earth, are least in the Kingdom. Our mortal lives on earth clearly affect our eternal lives in heaven. It’s reasonable to assume that living the most spiritual life possible on earth will result in a greater spiritual existence with God in the afterlife which is called heaven. The greater our spiritual existence is on earth, the greater our eternal life will be in heaven. The lesser our God centered spirituality is on earth, the less complete our heavenly existence will be because there will be a residual, eternal longing for those things in the afterlife.
And likewise, the intentional, total rejection of any God centered spirituality in preference of a life of wanton, selfish carnal pleasure must also have an even greater effect on our afterlife. The eternal hunger for those carnal pleasures will be much stronger for the spirit that wallowed in them more wantonly during its earthly existence. If the eternal longing for fleshy considerations is strong enough in the afterlife, it becomes an an eternal hell. We are left with the decision of which way we prepare our spirit whilst still on earth.