I am reading through the Old Testament again and it is interesting to note that the modern concept of a future utopia (a.k.a. heaven) is hardly to be found. Modern religion seems to have swung the other way and favours much talk about future reward as a motivator while underplaying possible punishment in some suitably horrible place because they say (whoever they are) that hell smacks of cruelty and a lack of love and is not an effective tool for changing behaviour nor, in all likelihood, a real place.
Some say we have progressed in our knowledge and behaviour since those barbaric times before Jesus. I highly doubt that; in fact, I would say that while we have simply replaced and renamed sins and cruelties and idolatries, God has been the faithful One in progressing: telling a progressive story of his character to humankind that is there for anyone to read if they have the desire, tenacity, and are willing to submit their self righteousness to a genuine love for Truth.
I don't know if hell is a real place, but I think it gets more time in the Scriptures than the concept of a future utopia (the word "heaven" in the Bible often refers simply to the sky or atmosphere above earth). We have been noticeably selective in how we read these things because we all tend to take in information through the filter of what our current culture is telling us is acceptable and noble and desirable. Until we can get it through our minds that GOD is the originator of progress, the One continuously revealing his character to us (and we have millenniums to go before we begin to fathom some of the depths there) and this whole trek here is not about improving and enlightening ourselves and becoming more civilised, we will sadly miss the point.
I have no desire just to become a kinder, gentler human race. I want to see God's character in its pure blinding beauty and be changed by the encounter.
This striking picture of the heavens was taken in Ste-Anne on Thursday.