Reframing The Final Judgment

     Most people reared in the Christian faith have become well acquainted with the understanding that a time will come when a Divine reckoning or decision will be made about where we spend eternity.  Jesus used the metaphor of dividing the sheep from the goats.  His use of the story concerning a wealthy man and economically deprived Lazarus in Luke 16 discussed the environment of afterlife with very descriptive images.  Clearly the conclusion of biblical authors was that God is firmly in control of bringing ultimate clarity to the destiny of our earthly sojourn.

     Without looking for loopholes or debasing the insights of Biblical authors, how can we reframe the Last Judgment in such a way that neither fear nor self-interest becomes the primary motivators for human beings remaining faithful to their respective faith traditions?

     Some people support a belief that Hell cannot be reconciled with God’s loving energy patterns. Other thinkers counter this understanding with the notion that God is a Just Creator.  They reason that consequences to evil acts must be on equal footing with grace and forgiveness. 

      If we look over the landscape of humanity, we see a very uneven playing field.  There are people in Tibet who have never heard of Jesus.  In fact, many people east of Suez have a very different religious orientation.  The ignorance of The Bible among vast populations of the world is as profound as is the ignorance of Christians regarding the contents of The Holy Quran (Islam) or of Lao-tzu’s The Canon of the Way and of Virtue (Taoism).

     When we add to this landscape those who are loving and caring but cannot accept the Bible as the word of God, we clearly have an issue that drives to the core of our need to reframe how we think.  For example, does our thinking about God’s Final Judgment make our interpretation of this event true and binding on all human beings? If so, how do we reconcile the qualities that appear to be extremes in God’s nature, i.e., Unconditional Love and Justice?  Finding an alternative may not be as challenging as it first appears. 

     When we examine the religions of the world, regardless of the metaphors, the story telling and the concepts found in the spiritual instruction of each, one theme is consistently present – the world of spirit and the world of physical forms co-exist.

     Christianity has made the Final Judgment a major cosmic theme symbolizing the finality for each soul.  Some scholars doubt that this is an accurate interpretation of the Scriptures.  Since most of the biblical images of punishment suggest physical components, e.g., fire, gnashing of teeth, etc., such metaphors and descriptions fit the results of our lives lived here on earth.

     Justice would clearly be served when each individual charts his or her own course in the physical world, allowing the full impact of each choice to be experienced.  In Proverbs we read, “As a man thinks in his heart so shall he be.” Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your hearts be also.”  We were reminded, “What good does it do to inherit the entire world if during that process we lose our souls.”

     In truth, we do lose our way when we pursue and become attached to the things of this world.  Beauty fades. Wealth cannot buy health.  Power often inspires rivalry, envy and strife.  Enlightened, benevolent dictators cannot pass on their wise ways to those who follow.  Those who build their spiritual lives around the symbols of the physical world are using sinking sand as a foundation.  Every religion makes this clear.

     When we mistakenly grow toward and desire the symbols of our garden, we will cry and gnash our teeth.  We will experience being detached from God.  How quickly we learn that the promise and glitter of this world cannot deliver peace, joy or the experience of God’s presence.  Jesus never taught, however, that we must abandon this world; he taught “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”  By bringing the world of spirit into the material one our senses reveal, we can become the leaven for the loaf.  The fruits of love and justice both emerge through the quality of what we create while living here.

     As informed as Jesus was regarding matters of spirit, he could not pass on his knowledge to the disciples any more than a mountain climber can pass on his skill level to those who have never climbed.  Jesus frequently rebuked his disciples with words like, “How long must I put up with you?  Oh ye, of little faith.” Judas had his own agenda.   Peter showed up in the garden with a sword hidden under his tunic.  Signs are everywhere in the Gospels that what Jesus had learned could not be automatically transferred to others.  That is why he said, “the gate to life is narrow and few find it.”  Was Jesus implying that most of humanity would be eternally lost?  No.

     What happens when we leave our bodies?  The words that follow come from the claims of those who have survived near death experiences.  Our life passes in front of us like a movie.  Every thought, word and deed and what motivated them will be experienced.  We are invited to consider what we would change if we had the opportunity.  We are ageless, genderless and timeless life forms that are neither vanquished to eternal torment nor inheritors of eternal bliss.

     These and other possible insights provide a hint of what may be a vast continuum that defies our numerous attempts at creating verbal portraits of what happens when we become energetic spirit beings. Regardless of what anyone believes, each will surrender his or her physical form to the inevitable.  We can transition trusting in our Creator to provide for us, or we can remain convinced that death is final.  No religion has an accurate or complete insight into the Final Judgment in spite of their assertions that they do.  Beliefs do not enhance or influence the reality God has established.  At the moment of our physical death all will be made clear.

     Both Heaven and Hell are real.  The reality of both depends on how we choose to perceive, i.e., how we interpret the meaning of what is happening around us.  When we transition from our forms, we will be lovingly accepted regardless of our beliefs or accomplishments.  Like on this side of the curtain, we can choose to evolve or engage in delay.  There could be no infinite, loving justice more powerful than this -- we must live with what we have become.  Sometimes this is incentive enough for us to choose evolution, refinement and the continual polishing of our stone rather than holding onto attitudes and engaging in activities that reveal our choice for further delay.