Heaven and Hell, Angels and Demons

Heaven and Hell, Angels and Demons – The heavenly realms, are necessarily intimately intertwined with life on Earth. This must be so by the very logic that underlies the belief in creation. What we believe, the narratives we tell ourselves and the tales we tell others are fundamental pillars upon which the edifice of our humanity is built, for better or for worse.

Heaven - Archangel Michael

Heaven – Archangel Michael – protector against demonic forces

When I was a boy I was taught that Heaven is where God is and that it is a place of eternal bliss populated by angels. It is also the eternal reward destination for good people following the end of their earthly life. Hell is where the devil is and it is a place of eternal suffering and is populated by demons. It is also the punishment destination for bad people following their death. Around two and a half billion Christians believe this to be true. This understanding should become more nuanced as people grow older.

We do not know where Heaven or hell are. Also we do not fully understand what degree of goodness or badness would take a person one way or the other. Moreover, I find the question of eternal reward or punishment perplexing. As eternity is, of its very nature, outside of the space-time continuum, I cannot see how it can be used as a measure of reward or punishment. Outside of space and time actions and consequences are irrelevant.

I am aware that there exist far more sophisticated interpretations of the relationships between virtue and reward and sin and punishment. However, as far as I have managed to grasp, these explanations add layers of intellectual hypothesis and not that much clarity. Life is complex, in that there are multiple causes producing multiple results as in the case, for example, of body cellular interactions that run into trillions a day. Also, as another example, our daily sensory interactions add up to a number too large to compute.

The complexity of life does not, however, imply that we cannot understand it clearly and in relatively simple terms. The word ‘clear’ means “not clouded; not murky; unambiguous; transparent; readily perceived by the senses or understood by the mind.” The word ‘simple’ means “not complicated; not elaborate; without sophistication; straightforward.” Simple and clear solutions or explanations are considered to be elegant, the expression of genius.

All of God’s creations, the entire universe, including human and all other life on earth, are emanations of the divine source. I believe this statement to be an inescapable conclusion based on our best spiritual understanding. I also believe that God does speak to all in a clear and simple way so as to reach all beings, irrespective of their position or circumstance. In fact I think that God would and does communicate in the most elegant of manners.

Heaven - Archangel Michael

Heaven – Archangel Michael – commander of God’s angelic army

I have delved into the subject matter of good and evil as people’s inability to comprehend the source, wherefore and destination of life on earth, that would otherwise bring them an understanding that we are in fact beholden to a higher moral order, appears to be the precondition for humanity’s amoral behaviour that leaves so much death, suffering and environmental degradation in its wake.

Why should evil even exist in a world created by a good God? The fact that good and evil coexist is a paradox. A paradox is a situation or action that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true. A paradox cannot be intellectually understood or proved through computer modelling. A paradox may, though, be simply and clearly known to be true.

I am not here justifying evil or implying that bad things are necessary in order to maintain some cosmic balance. That evil exists is a fact of life and we do need to find a way to properly understand it in order to be able to take effective actions in its regard. One elegant exposition of the good vs evil paradox states that evil is the absence of good.

Life has a propensity towards order. Good is far more powerful than evil. Therefore, strive to be a force for good in your family and community. That will, every day, strike a blow against the evil that men do.

This article was published in the Senior Times of the Times of Malta in May 2023

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Heaven and Hell, Angels and Demons