9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Matthew is my five year old. He is smart, energetic, silly, curious, energetic, and sometimes he wears me out. For the last couple years one of his favorite possessions has been a sword. A year ago he had a soft styrofoam sword that he would put in the back of his pajamas. He’s since upgraded to a longer, harder, plastic sword that fits snugly inside a sheath. He loves putting his sheath in the belt loops of his jeans so that it’s right beside him like other pirates, soldiers, and dragon slayers. Matthew loves to pretend that he’s in a constant battle, fighting off “the bad guys.”
When he’s not wielding a sword, Matthew never stops asking questions. He asks questions about everything and more often than I care to admit, my response is “I don’t know buddy. We’ll have to find out together.” It took having Matthew to realize the extent of my ignorance. I don’t know why a Gorgosaurus only had two finger claws when the Allosaurus had three, I don’t know where a jellyfish’s poop comes out, and I’m not sure what a hippopotamus’ favorite thing to eat is. (Yes, as you can tell he’s a lover of animals.)
The other day while we were driving to school Matthew asked me, “Mom, do bad people get to go to heaven?” Gulp. Here it comes. One of the many moments I’ve been dreading. The idea that God isn’t always happy with everyone and the Bible isn’t full of only stories with happy endings.
“Well…let’s think about that.” A long pause to stall while I collected my thoughts. “Heaven is supposed to be a perfect place, right?”
“And everyone is supposed to be happy in heaven, right?”
“Would it still be a perfect and happy place if bad people were there too?” I glanced in the back and saw him shaking his head.
“Oh. No it wouldn’t.”
“Nope, you’re right. So God can’t let people go to heaven that aren’t going to be kind.” Phew. He doesn’t seem too shattered. One bullet dodged. Way to go, Mom!
“Well then where do they go?”
Uh oh. I celebrated too soon. That one’s a lot harder. I don’t want to name it. I don’t want to scare my munchkins. God, anytime you want to step in and help answer this that’d be great…
“Well, what do we know about God?”
“He loves us!” Lindsay chimed into the conversation.
“He makes things for us!” added Matthew.
“You’re both right. He loves us and makes things for us so we can all be happy. We also know that God is perfect. So God is perfect and God is love. So those people who don’t get to go to heaven have to be somewhere away from God. So those people don’t get to feel love or happiness.”
“They don’t get to be with their families?” Matthew asked eyes wide.
“No buddy, because don’t we love our family? They’d have to be away from love and away from things that make them happy because God gives us all those things.”
“Oh, Mom. Can we stop talking about this?” Lindsay asked from the back seat. When I looked in the rearview mirror she was bent over in her car seat with her elbows on her thighs and holding her head in her hands covering her eyes. The next sentence was soft and mumbled. “It’s just making me soooo sad.”
I giggled from the front seat which was totally inappropriate, but it was because she was incredibly adorable. She was right of course. Thinking that some people might not get to go to heaven and be with God should make us all sad. It should make us heartbroken enough to share the good news with others. But after this conversation all I could think about was the idea of Hell being so sad and so scary. While I tried to avoid “scary” in our small conversation, it’s an idea that when I was a kid terrified me. Sometimes I wonder if it was less my love for God that begged me to be saved but more my fear of what “gnashing of teeth” meant exactly. I wasn’t always looking for salvation but running away from damnation. I didn’t want to talk about Hell or think about it. But I’ve been wondering, is that the way it has to be?
I don’t want my kids to think of Hell as a place where God sends people who haven’t obeyed Him. I don’t even want it to be a place where “bad people” have to go. In reality, if it was left up to us without our Savior, isn’t it a place where we all should have to go?
And even though the word “Hell” isn’t something I’ve ever discussed with my children, when they do become familiar with that term I don’t want it to bring about images of fire burning through the darkness and people screaming while the horned Devil with pitchfork in hand looks on. Instead, I’d rather think of Hell as the name of a location where an important battle took place. A battle that’s celebrated because Jesus already won. I want my kids to picture Jesus with sword in hand fighting off the “bad guy” who tried to keep us from spending eternity with God. I want them to see Jesus as the ultimate superhero who did everything he could to save us from darkness.
More often than not the Bible stories that are told during Sunday school are all about Jesus’ teachings to love one another and be good people. Sometimes I wonder if my sword swinging little boy can relate to a mild mannered Jesus. “Sometimes it’s hard to be nice, Mom” I’ve heard him say. Isn’t this true even for adults? I’m not sure that on Sunday mornings my kids will ever hear about Jesus overturning tables in the temple courts. They probably won’t hear about him calling the pharisees “hypocrites” which could be considered truthful name-calling. Instead, they hear about Jesus being kind, healing the sick and turning the other cheek.
On Easter Sunday they’re told that he died on a cross for us. But what happened after? What did Jesus face when God turned away from him and the world’s sin was his responsibility? Yes, Jesus was innocent and he demonstrated meekness during his trial and while on the cross. But he was also the strongest and most courageous man who ever lived. He spent forty days in the desert with the devil and came out unscathed. He died so the world could be reunited with God. He died so we might have eternal life. Jesus overcame hell! And regardless of whether or not he actually descended into hell (this is a controversial topic that I don’t want to debate) there is no debating that Jesus’ death and resurrection changed everything for the human race as well as any plans Satan might have had for humanity. So I think it’s safe to say that Jesus was the ultimate Dragon slayer.
26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
1 Corinthians 15:26
has pierced Death’s Darkness
And He cannot be contained.
has broken through night’s shadows
to reveal only strips of linen and burial cloth remained.
The Prince of Peace
has warred the Murder of Men
and He redefined history.
He traded a broken heart
and a crown of thorns
for a crown of victory.
The Son of Truth
has overcome The Father of Lies
and there’s only good news to be spoken.
Ignore the Deceiver’s whispers
and trust in God’s promises
the curse of death is broken!