'Have you ever thought that, if you're wrong, you're going to hell?!'
'Well, it's a good thing I don't believe in hell then, huh?'
The orthodox, or 'accepted, traditional' doctrine of 'Heaven & Hell' has always been that of certain places, whether geographical or otherwise, that a soul enters upon the expiration of one's biological body. To differing extents & please correct me if I'm wrong, the notion of spending the afterlife in torments or pleasure spans the major religions, including Christianity, Judaism & Islam. These beliefs go back to well before the time of Christ. The Christian doctrine of 'Heaven & Hell' was heavily influenced by Greek mythology, Dante's picture of 'Hell', or 'Hades' being perhaps the foremost example.
'Heaven & Hell' are not the only doctrines under fire today; the resurrection of the body, the nature of the Christ & of the Creator God Himself ( Scripturally speaking ) are all in need of reexamination! The Nature of the Creator God, of course, is of utmost importance in understanding our own nature. If we do not understand correctly the Nature of our Heavenly Father, then we cannot, as His Creations, His Children, truly understand & embrace our own!
The Resurrection is arguably THE most looked-for & longed-for event in human history! Whether or not one believes the Resurrection is in our future, or whether one accepts that the Resurrection spoken of in Scripture already transpired in history, one thing should be clear; if the resurrection of individuals, whether biologically or spiritually, is in view within the pages of Scripture, this has obviously not happened yet. Maybe it's an ongoing thing; if the Resurrection is merely a spiritual event, on an individual basis, would that not mean that it occurs when a person ( again, Scripturally speaking ) 'comes to (the ) Christ'? On the other hand, if the Resurrection is/was a one time event, maybe the futurists are right & it is only the End of Time itself that will prove this miraculous event!
Jesus the Christ, as Israel's long-awaited Messiah, or Savior was raised from the dead! Scripture records this miraculous event & says that His resurrection was an indication of our own. Let me back up here a little & say that this Resurrection was promised to Israel, the Body of which had died ( metaphorically ) through covenant separation. The Resurrection, then, has already, according to Scripture, taken place, as true Israel rose like a phoenix from the ashes ( dust ) of Israel under that first covenant!
The miraculous nature of Jesus' birth aside, it is clear that He WAS a Man; however, according to the orthodox understanding of Scripture ( not necessarily wrong ), He was also God! That Jesus was God, though only the Son, not the Father, He Himself made perfectly clear. As the avowed Son of God, Jesus stated that 'before Abraham was, I AM' ( John 8:58 ), thus claiming to be the Creator God Himself!
Here's where understanding correctly the Nature of the Creator God comes into play: as we noted before, in order to truly understand our own nature, we must first understand our Heavenly Father's! First of all, He is the Creator; we are creators: being made in His Image & bearing His likeness, we. to whatever extent create life or bring death, just like our Father-God.. It is ultimately our nature, yes, which allows us, gives us the power to choose whether we will do one or the other. Being made like Him, we are judges of the earth, with the power & authority to determine matters of life & death.
The orthodox understanding of the nature of man, or mankind, is that man, through his own doing, is fundamentally flawed. According to this doctrine, it is only a supposed second appearing of Jesus, in His biological body, that can rescue mankind from this terrible situation he has placed himself in. In some sense, this doctrine is on the right track; it has simply been misplaced! As the Christ rises in our hearts ( resurrection? ), we are awakened to our true nature, that of Sons of God ( individually ), or the Son of God ( corporately ).
The true nature of Jesus, as the Christ, then, was that, as a Man, He was imbued with Power from on High, by which He was enabled to rescue His people Israel from the ( awkward ) situation they had placed themselves in. As God, He was able to rise from the dead, as significant of what He had done for His people, in raising them from the ash-heap. Jesus was the personification of the Christ & being made in His Image, we too are Christs, with the Power, through our choices, to raise people from the ash-heaps of their own making, or condemn them to a thousand deaths!
Every myth is based in truth & so the doctrine of 'Heaven & Hell', as taught by the orthodox church, though based on myth, also has its foundation in reality! Through individual choices, one may experience the joys of 'Heaven' or suffer an eternity in 'Hell'. Experiencing 'Hell' may not seem like much of a choice, but by deciding to quit walking certain 'paths', one may escape the rigors of 'Hell'. By then following the right 'path', one may experience, though fraught with danger, an eternity in 'Heaven'!
'Orthodox' does not ( necessarily ) mean 'wrong'! For the past many millenia, the Kingdom of the Creator God has seen much growth. Even with their limited understanding of these few doctrines I have enumerated, the Good News of the Marriage of Heaven & Earth has captured, without force of arms, many hearts. Having risen from the ashes of orthodoxy, though, for there is quite an ash-heap therein, may we truly understand the nature of what is & with that knowledge, bring resurrection to a world that has fallen into the dust of sleep!
Charles Haddon Shank