3

Over the years I have often heard sermons in which it is claimed that Jesus taught more about hell than heaven. I have always believed it because I never had the inclination to check up on those making that claim, I just assumed it was true, because why would someone make such a claim if it weren't true?

However, I have found an article entitled "Did Jesus speak more about Hell than about Heaven?" where that claim is challenged and in what I have seen so far it may very well not be true. I wonder if there is anyone else on this group that has already done a study on the veracity of this claim.

Here is a list of the actual verses used by the author.

4
  • 1
    Not sure why this is being downvoted. Jesus speaking about heaven or about hell in the NT seems like a pretty reasonably quantifiable thing, even if there would be room for disagreement on specific definitions or edge cases Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 3:04
  • Jesus introduces the word 'Gehenna' which he uses a few times, then James uses it once. No other apostle uses it. That is worthy of particular note but a mere quantification of references is of little value in terms of exegesis or examination of doctrinal content. A glance at a concordance will suffice to give a rough idea of comparative usage. For what it's worth. The OP could have done that themselves as part of their research of the question.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 7:55
  • I'm not confident enough to make an answer, but almost every time Jesus talks about hell, it's contrasted with heaven in some way. That plus the fact that he talked so much about heaven/the kingdom of God by itself so much means the claim is almost certainly false Commented Aug 15, 2023 at 1:11
  • 2
    @SaberTruthTiger, I removed your editorial comment. Personally, I'm rather inclined in that direction myself, but it doesn't contribute to your Question, and it's possible some people are reacting negatively to it. (Mods/OP, if you feel this steps on existing answers too much, please feel free to revert!)
    – Matthew
    Commented Aug 15, 2023 at 3:36

2 Answers 2

2

As you will remember from your Church of God teaching, the Bible nowhere says that salvation means going to Heaven, so it's hardly surprising that Jesus doesn't talk much about it.

It's John, in Revelation, that says more about Heaven itself than anyone else. And what he describes is his interpretation of a vision. He sees the Kingdom of God, here on earth, and he sees various beings (e.g. angels), and things (e.g. a city) descending from heaven to earth, but there is no indication that humans themselves would ever go up to heaven.

What Jesus talks about is "The Kingdom of God" (or "The Kingdom of Heaven" as Matthew calls it). But that kingdom is to be here on physical Earth, not in God's Heaven.

Most people would be surprised at how little the Bible actually says about heaven.

Consider all the uses of the word "heaven" in the Gospels:

Matthew:

  • reward in heaven
  • Father which is in heaven
  • as it is in heaven
  • exalted unto heaven
  • looking up to heaven
  • in heaven their angels
  • treasure in heaven
  • God in heaven
  • Son of man in heaven
  • clouds in heaven
  • from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other
  • angels of heaven
  • clouds of heaven
  • (4×) heaven and earth
  • (2×) by heaven
  • (2×) bound in heaven
  • (2×) loosed in heaven
  • (5×) from heaven
  • (13×) Father [which is] in heaven
  • (33×) kingdom of heaven (Matthew's term for "Kingdom of God")

Mark:

  • he looked up to heaven
  • looking up to heaven
  • treasure in heaven
  • Father also which is in heaven
  • Father which is in heaven
  • (2×) angels which are in heaven
  • stars of heaven
  • the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven
  • heaven and earth
  • the clouds of heaven
  • he was received up into heaven
  • (4×) from heaven

Luke:

  • the angels were gone away from them into heaven
  • the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended
  • the heaven was shut up three years and six months,
  • in heaven
  • looking up to heaven
  • exalted to heaven
  • your names are written in heaven
  • Lord of heaven
  • Father which art in heaven
  • joy shall be in heaven
  • lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven
  • not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven
  • treasure in heaven
  • peace in heaven
  • powers of heaven
  • he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven
  • (2×) against heaven
  • (2×) heaven and earth
  • (8×) from heaven

John:

  • (15×) from heaven
  • you shall see heaven open
  • These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come

They are almost all talking about things that are already in heaven (angels, stars, God), or using heaven to mean the earth's air (clouds). Three of them do refer to "into heaven", but they are talking about angels and Jesus.

Jesus (and the Gospel writers) effectively never use the word "heaven" in a way that involves humans (other than Jesus).

The only seeming exception is "reward/treasure in heaven", but, without a preconceived belief that human afterlife will be in heaven, there is no reason to suspect that it refers to anything that isn't simply in heaven now, waiting to be brought to earth in the future.
Compare this with the "many mansions" in heaven and "shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God".

5
  • I still yearn for life after death and living on a paradise earth but sometimes I have doubts that such a thing can be true. You know the old saying, "If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is". I want to be there. I observe the Sabbath on Saturday but I do not attend a congregation. I don't consider myself superior to those who choose to worship God on Sunday. I worship God every day but I rest on the Sabbath and do my work on the other six days of the week. I do remember the correct gospel is the good news of the Kingdom of God/Heaven. Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 18:17
  • I don't embrace all the teachings of my old church from the 70s and 80s. I have even attended a Sunday observing Church for two years back in the late 80s but I left after two years and even though I became an atheist for 17 years I became a theist again in 2007 after watching numerous nature shows on cable and became an owner of some cats. I also read a book about creationism vs. evolution from the Watchtower society and that helped me see the light. Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 18:20
  • "the Bible nowhere says that salvation means going to Heaven"... naturally it doesn't, because "heaven" is not the destination of those who are saved. (Probably. "Will there be space travel in the New Creation?" is an interesting and relevant question.)
    – Matthew
    Commented Aug 15, 2023 at 3:41
  • @Matthew Herbert W. Armstrong awakened in me a desire to study the Bible and one of the first things I learned was that God created the whole universe for a reason. For those who would eventually be the sons of God living on them and ruling over them, was supported by his claims when he cited "of the increase of his kingdom there shall be no end" and "God doesn't create anything in vain". So all those planets out there must have some purpose other than just to look pretty for us humans on earth at night. Commented Aug 15, 2023 at 6:03
  • @SaberTruthTiger, not necessarily. "The Heavens declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1) and "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens [...] for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and [...] to give light upon the earth" (Genesis 1:14-15). Since Scripture does tell us a reason for "all those planets out there" (none of which are known to be inhabitable, anyway), assuming there's another reason for them might be a stretch.
    – Matthew
    Commented Aug 15, 2023 at 15:47
1

Frequency. About a dozen years ago, I studied the parables of Jesus with a view to discovering the most important topics by counting how many parables discussed each subject. Among the topics I studied were money, heaven and hell. For heaven, I included all talk of eternal life and reward after death. For hell, I counted all references to judgment. Thus my categories are broader than yours, but should be helpful. The references to heaven, the kingdom of heaven and reward occurred in a little over half the parables. So did the references to hell and judgment. However, the count of the parables that spoke of heaven was a little higher than that for hell and judgment. Thus I would say that hell is NOT spoken of more than heaven.

This analysis, of course, neglects the non-parable statements of Jesus (a minority of his sayings) and Jesus' words in Revelation, which veer towards judgment.

(Editor: The following refers to content that was removed from the Question. See the original version thereof for relevant context.)

Annihilationism. Since you mention annihilationism in your question, here is a thought. Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) God constructed the universe in a particular way, and that includes what death is and is not. The universe was constructed in such a way that Jesus could lay down his life and take it up again. His offering of his unspotted person in sacrifice was the greatest act of love in all history. However, if someone were to be able to offer themself to be annihilated and cease forever to be so as to rescue someone else from judgment, then would that not be a greater sacrifice than what Jesus gave? For this reason, I do not believe that the annihilation of souls is possible. God designed our beings and this world so as to make it impossible. Otherwise, to make the greatest possible sacrifice for sinners would have required the permanent cessation of existence of the Son of God, rupturing the Trinity and destroying the universe, thus destroying all people and saving none. That would create a logical impossibility. Therefore annihilationism is logically impossible. Whatever the ultimate state of the reprobate is, that is not the solution to your dilemma. It seems that even the apostle Paul wished that he could make some such sacrifice for his countrymen, but knew it to be impossible:

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. (Romans 9:1-3)

Two missions. Back to the relative frequency of Jesus' statements, we must distinguish between the two missions: the incarnation and earthly life of Jesus during his first coming and the his return in glory at his second coming. The first coming was to announce salvation and to make the payment that purchased it for all who believe. The second coming of Christ also addresses salvation, as the ultimate salvation of the righteous will occur then, but the main preoccupation of Revelation is the judgment of the wicked. Thus the two poles of salvation and damnation vary in terms of emphasis according to what time it is in salvation history. Inferring too much from the frequency of how often Jesus spoke about matters is unwise, because as the times and seasons flow through history, so does the focus of God in how he interacts with mankind vary.

2
  • While I agree that whether Jesus talked about hell or heaven more is somewhat moot to annihilationism, your argument against it doesn't work. Whether hell is eternal torment or destruction, Jesus only experienced it for 3 days. I would in fact see this as more in favor of annihilationism than eternal torment. It poses no problem to say that Jesus died and then God raised him again, it poses more of a problem to figure out how He could have suffered am eternity of torment in just 3 days Commented Aug 15, 2023 at 1:14
  • I have an answer for that, but it depends on understanding the correct way of reading Revelation 13:8. I need to post a question to Hermeneutics. If it is not our names that are written in the book since the foundation of the world but Christ who was slain since the foundation of the world, then there is a spiritual sense in which Jesus suffered much longer than three days... Commented Aug 15, 2023 at 20:19

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .