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Religious Tolerance logo


Salvation, Heaven, and Hell

A personal note by the Webmaster
on the death of Prince. Ambiguities
in the Bible concerning salvation, and
people's eternal destiny after death.

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An email from Pastor Greg Laurie about the death of Prince:

On 2016-MAY-17, I received an unsolicited email from Pastor Greg Laurie. He is the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, an evangelical Christian mega-church in Riverside, CA. He is also the featured speaker for Harvest Crusades, and has a daily radio broadcast called "A New Beginning." 2

"Harvest's" Statement of Faith includes their belief:

"... in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost: they that are saved unto the resurrection of life, and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation. 1

That is, after death, people are returned to life, judged, and assigned to spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell.

In his email, he quoted from his article in World Net Daily titled "On the Death of Prince." In it, he discussed the death of the musical super-star Prince Rogers Nelson -- universally known as Prince -- at the age of 57 at his home in Chanhassen, MN, on 2016-APR-21.

Wikipedia describes Prince as follows:

"Prince Rogers Nelson was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and actor. He was a musical innovator and known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, extravagant dress and makeup, and wide vocal range." 3

Jon Pareles also wrote an article in the New York Times about Prince after his death, describing him as:

"... a man bursting with music — a wildly prolific songwriter, a virtuoso on guitars, keyboards and drums and a master architect of funk, rock, R&B and pop, even as his music defied genres. In a career that lasted from the late 1970s until his solo 'Piano & a Microphone' tour this year, he was acclaimed as a sex symbol, a musical prodigy and an artist who shaped his career his way, often battling with accepted music-business practices." 4

President Obama Issued a statement, saying:

"Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent." 4

Prince is being sadly missed by millions of his followers.

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Pastor Laurie's email noted an irony in the location of Prince's death. He died in an elevator in his home.

In one of his best known songs, "Let's Go Crazy" he sang:

"'Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the after world.
In this life
You’re on your own.
And if the elevator tries to bring you down,
Go crazy, punch a higher floor."

Another passage in the same song also suggests that Prince believed in an afterlife for everyone that is much better than life on Earth:

"But I’m here to tell you
There’s something else:
The after world ...
A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night."

Prince clearly believed that humans have only one possible destination after death: a single "after world" where everyone spends eternity in a place of happiness, joy and peace.

Prince's apparent belief concerning the afterlife is based on the concept of Universalism: that everyone will ultimately spend eternity in Heaven. This was a very widely-held belief within the early Christian Church. Today, however, Pastor Laurie, Christian fundamentalists, other evangelical Christians and many other Christians believe that Jesus Christ will conduct a Final Judgment of all persons after their death. Depending on certain criteria, the saved will attain Heaven and the unsaved will be sent to the eternal torture chambers of Hell where they will suffer extreme pain without any hope of relief.

Pastor Laurie concludes his email by stating:

"I don’t know where Prince or Bowie went. Only God does. But I do know where I am going when I die. I’m going up. Which way are you going? To find out how to be sure you will go to Heaven when you die, visit my web site: KnowGod.org

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My email response to Pastor Laurie, as subsequently polished a bit for inclusion here:

"Thank you for your email and its analysis of the topic of salvation. ..."

"I was raised a Christian, but was never able to sense the presence of God in my life, or in the world, or universe. My studies as a teen showed me that there were tens of thousands of active religious traditions/denominations/faith groups spread around the world among a dozen large religions and countless small religions. They teach diverse and conflicting beliefs about deity, humanity, and the rest of the universe. None that I studied made sense to me. I gravitated towards Agnosticism -- the belief that one cannot know for certain whether one or more deities exist. I have remained an Agnostic for over six decades.

I expect that when I die -- currently estimated by a medical quiz to be early in 2025-MAR -- my heart will stop beating. My consciousness which is a function of my brain activity will cease. My short-term memory is electrical in nature and will discharge. My long-term memory is chemical and will rot. I believe that the only way that I will live on is through the influences that my actions -- good and bad -- have had on others while I was alive.

I have studied the matter of salvation and written about it in my web-site. I find the Bible to be ambiguous on the criteria to be used to decide who will go to Heaven and who to Hell:

Matthew 25 contains a "sheep and goats" passage. It describes a final judgment in which Jesus judges persons of all eras, faiths, cultures, languages, ages, genders, sexual orientations, gender identities, etc. It states that the sole requirement that he will use to decide one's destination is whether the individual has helped others who were hungry, needy, sick, naked, imprisoned, etc. This criterion is tightly linked to the golden rule, a.k.a. "ethic of reciprocity" that Jesus expected his followers to use in their treatment of others.

There are numerous other passages in the Bible written by Jesus' followers about salvation. They imply that only those who have repented of their sins and accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior before death will get to Heaven.

Faced with this conflict between right beliefs and right actions, I have chosen to follow the words attributed to Jesus and decided to ignore the words attributed to his followers.

I find the following analysis technique helpful. I imagine a straight line on a piece of paper that represents the level of caring and cruelty a person exhibits in life.

Hitler horizontal rule Mother Teresa

At the right side of the line, I mark the names of persons who typify goodness, caring, and loving. Perhaps Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and/or Mother Teresa. They would be horrified at a person throwing people in jail and torturing them for all eternity because they followed the wrong religious beliefs. On the left side, I mark the name of the most evil, uncaring and hate-filled person -- perhaps Adolf Hitler. He not only threw people in jail for the wrong beliefs but had them tortured and executed there by the millions. Then I ask where would God fit on this line. I would suggest that he would be on the extreme right side, far above the line.

An omnipotent God would certainly have the power to create unlimited numbers of torture chambers in Hell. However, I feel that the Christian God would not do it because of his beneficience: he is all-good, all loving, all caring, and all kind.

So I assume that the words in the Bible attributed to Jesus are accurate, including his statement in the Sheep and Goats passage of Matthew 25 that salvation is dependent solely on good works. I assume that the words attributed to Jesus' followers which conflict with those attributed to Jesus are not valid.

If God, Jesus, Heaven, Hell, etc. exist then I will have done the best that I can and will have to take my chances when I die. I feel that everyone else is in this situation as well because of the ambiguities in the Bible. We all have to chose which salvation concept, if any, as mentioned in the Bible is accurate. When we die, and if there is a final judgment, we will all have to face the consequences of our decision."

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Update on Prince's death:

According to recent reports, Prince died of a fentanyl overdose which originated in counterfeit pills that simulated commercial pain killing medication which would have contained acetaminophen and hydrocodone. The latter two components form a common prescription painkiller combination sold under the brand names Vicodin, Lortab, Lorcet, etc. However, analysis of the pills showed that they actually contained a mixture of fentanyl, lidocaine and U-47700.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Our Statement of Faith," Harvest Christian Fellowship, 2016, at: http://www.harvest.org/
  2. Greg Laurie, "On the Death of Prince," World Net Daily, 2016-APR-25, at: http://www.wnd.com/
  3. "Prince (musician)," Wikipedia as on 2016-MAY-17, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  4. Jon Pareles, "Prince, an Artist Who Defied Genre, Is Dead at 57," New York Times, 2016-APR-21, at: http://www.nytimes.com/

How you may have arrived here:

or Home > Christianity > Christian themes > Beliefs > Salvation > here

Home > Christianity > History, Beliefs... > Beliefs > Cardinal beliefs > Salvation > here

Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2016-MAY-17
Latest update: 2016-AUG-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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