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Are there levels in heaven close to God for missionaries and martyrs, and levels far from God for ordinary people?

The bible is clear that hell and heaven are very real places. Jesus told this parable in Luke 16:

Luke 16:19-31

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.

So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'

"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'

"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'

"'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'

"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

The movie with Robin Williams - "What dreams may come" - introduced another non-biblical concept. In the movie he finds that his wife is in hell and he goes there to meet her. Clearly, according to what we read in Luke 16, this is not possible. Once a person reaches either destination that's it - no exchanges. God is absolutely just and righteous and the bible says, in 2 Peter 3:9

2 Peter 3:9

"He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance".

God wants people to reach heaven, but clearly some -do- choose not to accept Jesus.

"The Divine Comedy", was written by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) while he was in exile. It is the tale of the poet's imagined journey through Hell and Purgatory (guided by Virgil) and through Heaven (guided by Beatrice, to whom the poem is a memorial). While it represents a good picture of medieval thinking, it does not give an accurate biblical picture of either heaven or hell.

Dante's work has influenced a great number of people over the years and has captured the public imagination as a means of describing heaven and hell. In my mind, Dante is the person responsible for popularising the idea of a "graded" heaven and hell.

Galatians 3:26-29

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

When we become Christians, there is absolute equality in God's eyes. We are all co-heirs with Christ. Since God is the same "yesterday, today and forever more", we can reasonably expect that same rule to apply both now and when we reach heaven. There will be equality. No-one will be sat on the fringe - left out and in a no-man's land between heaven and hell - Luke 16 says that there's a great gulf between them.

The question is not about our works (whether we spend our life in the mission field, devoutly serving God, or struggling to make ends meet and keep our faith together) it's about whether we choose to follow Jesus or not.

 

Paul Hawke