Essay:Jesus' emphasis on Heaven and Hell
There's been some discussion in various places regarding the relative emphasis Jesus placed on Heaven and Hell. I was keen to investigate this matter further, so accordingly I've been through the Gospel according to Mark and noted the references to both.
Some notes before I list my findings:
- This is only based on Mark's Gospel - I haven't been through the others. I chose Mark because it's the shortest, which makes it both the easiest to go through and the place to look for just the most important teachings.
- I've done more than simply note all uses of the words 'Heaven' and 'Hell'. The Heaven list contains all the references I found to eternal life, eternal rewards, salvation, or being admitted to the Kingdom of God. Similarly, the Hell list contains all the references I found to eternal condemnation or punishment.
- This is based on the New English Bible, which is the version I have nearest to hand on my shelf at home.
- Asterisked references make mention of both Heaven and Hell, but have been placed in the list according to which they emphasise most.
So, without further ado, here is the list.
Mark 3:29 - 'But whoever slanders the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven: he is guilty of eternal sin.' [when accused of using Satan's power to drive out devils]
Mark 9:43-49* - 'It is better for you to enter into life maimed than to keep both hands and go to Hell and the unquenchable fire. And if your foot is your undoing, cut it off; it is better to enter into life a cripple than to keep both your feet and be thrown into Hell. And if it is your eye, tear it out; it is better to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into Hell, where the devouring worm never dies and the fire is not quenched.'
Mark 12:9 - 'What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and put the tenants to death and give the vineyard to others.' [about those who reject those who bring God's word]
Mark 12:40 - 'These are the men who eat up the property of widows, while they say long prayers for appearance' sake, and they will receive the severest sentence.' [about the Doctors of the Law]
Mark 9:41 - 'If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink because you are followers of the Messiah, that man assuredly will not go unrewarded.' [to his disciples]
Mark 10:14-15* - 'The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.' [when blessing children]
Mark 10:21 - 'Go, sell everything you have, and give to the poor, and you will have riches in Heaven.' [to a rich man]
Mark 10:23-27 - 'How hard it will be for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God! [...] For men it is impossible, but not for God; everything is possible for God.'
Mark 10:29-30 - 'I tell you this: there is no one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother, father or children, or land, for my sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much [...] and in the age to come eternal life.' [to His disciples]
Mark 12:25 - 'When they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry; they are like angels in Heaven.' [answer to the Sadducees]
Mark 12:34 - When Jesus saw how sensibly he answered, He said to him, 'You are not far from the Kingdom of God'. [to the man who asked him about the greatest commandment]
Mark 13:13 - 'All will hate you for your allegiance to me; but the man who holds out to the end will be saved.' [predicting persecution to come]
Mark 16:20 - Jesus Himself sent out by them [His disciples] from east to west the sacred and imperishable message of eternal salvation. [closing words of Mark's Gospel]
Mark 16:16 - 'Those who believe it and receive baptism will find salvation; those who do not believe will be condemned.' [sending His disciples out to spread the Gospel]
One notable point is that very little detail is given of what Heaven or Hell is like. For Hell, there is one passage that speaks of a 'devouring worm' and 'unquenchable fire'. For Heaven, He says that at the resurrection, people will be 'like angels'.
Based on the lists above, it is clear that both Heaven and Hell are important. However, I conclude that there is more emphasis on Heaven, for two reasons:
- The simple number of passages is greater.
- The Gospel according to Mark concludes by calling the Gospel itself 'the sacred and imperishable message of eternal salvation' (not condemnation or punishment).
Those with comments or responses are more than welcome to post them to my talk page.