Would you still be a Christian if there was a heaven, but no hell?

Imagine for a moment that God set up reality differently, such that people could be as bad as they wanted without any risk of eternal punishment.  When you die, you simply cease to exist.  However, if you follow Jesus, heaven still awaits you.  Would you still follow Jesus?  Be honest.  I encourage you to take five minutes to reflect on this question before reading on below.

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Now imagine a slightly different scenario.  Imagine that there was no hell or heaven.  Those who live morally upright lives and those who live morally abhorrent lives both have the same fate: they cease to exist at death.  If you knew the same fate awaits both the righteous and the unrighteous, would you still follow the teachings of Jesus?  Be honest.  I would encourage you to take another five minutes to reflect on this question before reading on below.

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My guess is that most Christians would still follow the teachings of Jesus so long as there was a heaven to reward our good behavior, but would not do so if there was no heaven.  After all, why life a life of self-sacrifice and limit our moral freedoms if the way we life our life neither results in reward nor punishment?

This perspective, while understandable, reveals a misunderstanding about Christianity.  Christianity is not just a religion for the afterlife (rewards and fire insurance), but a religion for the here-and-now.  The ultimate reason to be a Christian is not to gain an eternal reward or avoid an eternal punishment, but to have fellowship with our Creator in His creation as He intended.  We should want to fulfill the purpose for which God created us, and that includes fellowship with Him in the here-and-now.

Also, godliness brings us gain in this life (1 Tim 4:8).  God’s moral rules are meant for our benefit.  He made us to function a certain way, and we will experience the best life possible if we follow His rules for life.  We will avoid unnecessary hardships and realize our God-given potential.  So even if there were no heaven or hell, we should still desire to be a Christian.  How much more, then, should we be a Christian given the enormous eternal consequences as well?

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