Welcome to Virginia Beach, home of America’s friendliest people and worst drivers. (Well, that’s my assessment, but it’s a great place to be, all things considered.) This is a military area known as the “Redneck Riviera.” The entire metropolitan area is a waterland of fresh and salty rivers containing about ten 100,000-person-cities collectively known as Tidewater or Hampton Roads. It’s home to the Atlantic Fleet of the Navy, countless other military bases and real-life heroes they make movies about (literally.) But not every soldier comes back home to Hampton Roads…
So, where do all the dead soldiers and normal civilians go? 100% of them ultimately go to heaven or hell. Do they all go to heaven? No. “Small is the gate and narrow the road” that leads to heaven, said Jesus. This isn’t a scary post, but to show you how long heaven and hell last, I’m going to try to fit eternity into an analogy of space and time. Someone will cleverly point out that eternity is actually longer than my analogy. True. But even that becomes a greater argument a fortiori to avoid hell and get to heaven.
Imagine you are standing on Virginia Beach like me, and you take a handful of sand:
Then, you brush all the sand off except for one tiny grain:
Can you see it with your iPhone 6s? It’s in the orange circle. Let’s say you have to hold that single grain of sand for 100 years.
…okay….waiting 100 years….
Then you flick off that single grain of sand into the ocean:
…and then you have to pick up a second grain of sand:
Hold that second grain of sand for 100 years on the beach…time elapse…
…flick it into the ocean. Then take a third grain of sand. Hold it for 100 years. Flick it in the ocean…Then you pick up the fourth grain of sand and you have to hold that one for 100 years…time elapse on the beach…
Imagine you have to do that with every grain of sand from Virginia Beach to Miami, each grain being held for 100 years:
How long would this take? I did the math. It would take at least 56,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years to hold every grain of sand from Virginia Beach to Miami if you did 100 years for each grain of sand, each of which is closer in size to a grain of pepper than a grain of salt. When you have held every speckle of sand from Virginia Beach to Miami, then and only then can you can begin to grasp how long heaven or hell will endure for every man and woman on this short-lived planet.
We’re talking about trillions and trillions and trillions of years somewhere mind blowing if the soul be immortal. If Jesus rose from the dead (and thus Christianity be true—and I’m 100% sure it is—but I’m beefing-up Pascal’s wager here) then we’re talking trillions and trillions of years in unspeakable torture or trillions and trillions and trillions of years gazing upon the face of God in supersonic contemplation and bliss.
This is the outrageous claim of Christianity that is worth investigating, considering the stakes.
But here’s the single part you may have missed from the analogy: All those grains of sand are determined by the first grain of sand. Why? You may remember that we set each grain of sand at 100 years. 100 years is how long you will spend on earth! You will not get a second grain (unless you’re my grandma.) Thus, the first grain of sand in your hand on Virginia Beach is your time on earth. Every subsequent grain of sand in your hand (each lasting 100 years) is a long trip to Miami. This is just the beginning of heaven or hell.
If there’s even the tiniest chance that Christianity is true, then we could all agree that no amount of honors, pleasures or riches could possibly be worth risking 560,000,000,000,000,000,000 grains of sand for…
That’s how long you have on earth: One grain of sand at 100 years. So,
What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul?—Mark 8:36
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.—Matthew 5:30
No other holidays reflect the gravity of this decision as much as:
- October 31st, Halloween, the reflection of hell.
- November 1st, All Saints, the reflection of heaven.
- November 2nd, All Souls, the reflection of purgatory.
Do you see why God might allow suffering in your life now? It’s to detach you from one grain of sand (100 years on earth, “a bad night at a bad inn,” according to St. Teresa of Ávila) to obtain 560,000,000,000,000,000 grains of sand (add two zeros to see it in years.) What amount of suffering or unhealthy attachment to sin would not be worth detaching yourself from a grain for a whole beach? Nothing could be that pleasurable.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.—Romans 8:18
Get your family to heaven, no matter what it costs. Jesus paid 100% of the price, but for salvation to be realized we must cooperate—with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind.
Read more from Fr. Nix here on his blog.