This interpretation may be a dramatic departure from what most of us were taught. There are many people today, who are prepared to argue that justice demands punishment. After all, why should we have to share heaven with those who were downright evil and deserve to spend eternity in hell? The unconverted individual seems to demand a God who punishes and rewards the righteous. The book of Psalms supports this view again and again - forgive me God for my trespasses but please smite my enemies. This argument would seem not only justified but necessary particularly when we look at what is happening in our world each day. Not only do these passages in psalms prove that God understands our broken nature, but look at what Jesus said at the point of his final judgment by Pilate – forgive them father for they do not know what they do and turning to the thief also on the cross – today you will be with me in Paradise!
It seems that the last thing that Jesus had in mind was condemnation. Instead Jesus called for restoration and vindication. When I have been betrayed or hurt by someone, or a group, the first thing that comes to my mind (and most people I know) is how can I get even? If that attitude should remain on my mind, as the last thing, it will almost certainly guarantee the experience of hell (here on earth) spoken of by Jesus.
God promises us a way through our fear, pain and suffering. This universal gift is referred to by theologians as salvation. Jesus provided us with ample examples of God’s salvation. Jesus healed, comforted, blessed, forgave, restored and vindicated all those who believed in a life lived to the full, regardless of their sins. Over a hundred years ago, American Author Elbert Hubbard, said: We are not punished for our sins, but by them. Why then do we still demand an image of a punishing God? Why do we think that his additional punishment would carry us beyond the grave? What purpose does that serve God. Salvation has nothing to do with a ticket to get into heaven for the chosen few. Accordingly, is it not better to experience God’s free gift of salvation (no conditions attached – read the small print) in the here and now? So, lets stop fretting about God’s final judgment in the form of reward and punishment. Lets learn how to live in the 'true self', the eternal self.
When we die we will no longer need our 'false' or ego self and truly become as One. Or , in other words the final letting go or purging of the 'false self' at the moment of our death will finally set us free from the 'false' or ego self - the moment of complete restoration and vindication. Imagine just for a moment the great ‘Ah, ha moment’, seated next to God, as you come to understand why you endured all your trials and tribulations, with total clarity or understanding and the gifts they became. The moment when we will perhaps finally realize “Oh, this is why this or that was allowed to happen, and so on” without condemnation, accusation, or judgment etc. What a wonderful moment of great purging (purgatory) that will be.
The Good News simply is this: God has promised that he will never abandon us and will restore all who are broken, bent or indifferent and return us perfected in his own image as was first promised in the story of Creation.
The Three Judges
When I pass on I will stand before the three judges of the heavenly court. They will decide if I am to enter Heaven, or be returned to life to complete my transformation.
The first will ask me, "Did you treat others with respect?" and I will answer, "Yes, but did I treat them with enough respect? No." And my answer will be written down. The second judge will ask, "Did you study?" and I will reply, "Yes, I studied, but did I study as I was supposed to? No." And the answer will be written down.
Finally, the third judge will ask, "Did you love others as you loved yourself?" and I will answer, "Yes, but not completely." And this will be written down as well.
When there are no further questions, I will turn to leave the proceedings, headed, I am certain, for another incarnation in which I will try to do better. But the judges will cry, "Where do you think you're going? A person who speaks as much truth as you is needed in the Garden of Eden. Step this way."
Michael Berg, The Way – Using the Wisdom of Kabbalah for Spiritual Transformation and Fulfillment, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
, NJ., 2001. Hoboken