Heaven, Hell & Crime

Monday, August 6, 2012 (All day)

Can what you believe about heaven and hell indicate whether you would commit a crime? You'll be surprised by this study.

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[Steve Myers] We ran across a survey the other day that was really an interesting one. It was a report from CBS News and they talked about a study that was published in a scientific journal and it was a study done by University of Oregon and University of Kansas. And it found some interesting things. Here's what the study said, "It found that people who believe in hell are less likely to commit a crime, while people who believe in heaven are more likely to get in trouble with the law." And when I read that, it was like, that doesn't make much sense. How can that be? And so as I read about it, it really took me back a little bit.

[Gary Petty] You know, what it shows is even though the traditional Christian viewpoint of heaven and hell isn't exactly the biblical viewpoint, it does show that most people are more motivated by fear of punishment more than they really are of the law of God.

[Steve Myers] And this wasn't just a little trite survey either. This was a survey that was done over 25 years, more than 25 years. Almost 150,000 people were involved in this. And it wasn't just something that happened in America. This was a survey that took in data from all around the world. And so what they found is that rates of belief in heaven and hell had significant unique and opposing effects on crime rates. So, here's what they found, a belief in hell predicted lower crime rates, where a belief in heaven predicted higher crime rates. So in a sense what they're finding is that if you believe in a forgiving God, so you believe you're going to go to heaven, then you can kind of get away with it.

[Gary Petty] Yeah.

[Steve Myers] And if you think you're going to go to hell, and hell is a real thing, then you better shape up and not go against the law.

[Gary Petty] What it shows is two conflicting ideas that are actually both not what the Bible teaches us. One is God loves me, He gives me grace, therefore I have a license to sin. So sin becomes acceptable because God loves me. Well, if God loves me, I am to love Him back, which means I must now do what He wants and I must try to obey Him. And the second of course is, well, I will obey God only because I fear Him, you know. And so now you have another problem is that the motivation is fear of punishment, not love of God. And if you think about it, what's really strange - God has to command us to love Him. Jesus Christ said the number one commandment in the entire scripture is to love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul. So, God actually commands us to love Him. If we love Him, we will never use that as an excuse to, as a license to sin. And we will never be motivated just out of fear of punishment.

[Steve Myers] And I think it brings into mind what is our view of God? Do we have an authoritarian God? Do we have a loving God? And if we don't have a balanced view of who God is, it's going to lead us to the wrong conclusion. So we've got to make sure that we really do know God and that we really understand who He is and develop a right relationship with Him.

[Gary Petty] That's right.

[Steve Myers] So that's BT Daily . We'll look forward to seeing you next time.


KARS's picture

I still understand what it truly means. Heaven is where God the Father and His Only Begotten Son (Jesus Christ who is seated at the right hand of the Father)have their thrones while Christ awaits His second coming.
Hell is the grave. Sheol.
There are scripture references to prove this.


JPatton's picture

You got it KARS.

From a traditional sense Heaven is the Third Heavens where God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ dwell. A spiritual realm or domain if you will outside this physical universe.
The second heavens is everything physical beyond the earth's atmosphere.
The first heavens or heavens as typically referred to in the bible often refers to that which is above the earth, the sky, but it may also include the second heavens or the heavenly bodies such as the sun, moon, stars. So one must be careful of context in each passage.

From a more traditional (non-biblical) sense Hell is a fiery place where people go forever to burn and be punished. In contrast the true Hell of the bible or grave is what the word hell typically refers to when used.
However when one contrasts the Traditional Hell theology with that of the Second Death and the Lake of Fire we find that God is merciful and does not make people suffer forever and ever. For death is like sleep, so likewise the Second Death and Lake of Fire is a permanent sleep for such an individual who refuses to change their heart and seek God. Even the memory of such a person will be cut off. Regarding the fate of spiritual beings such as Satan and his fallen angels, we do not know what exactly God has planned. Rev 20:7-10 gives us a hint and refers to eternal tormenting of the spiritual beings behind the beast and the false prophet, and eventually satan. However God being a merciful God, he may choose to completely destroy and cut off their memory also, but that is up to Him, not us.

Of course these are different concepts to what was discussed above in the video clip. Fear indeed is the most powerful of motivators, even in physical situations like declining stocks or housing markets, people sell based on fear. Greed or the prospect of reward and windfall is another motivator, but not as strong as fear.
We need a balance between Fear of God ( "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" - Prov9:10, Psa111:10) and Reward that being God's promise of entering his Kingdom as sons and daughter with the free gift of eternal life. With out this balance we are tempted and give in to sin, forgetting our prize and goal, which is nurtured through the Fear of God and the wisdom godly fear produces, "for our God is a consuming fire." - Heb 12:29

Ivan Veller

Ivan Veller's picture

Hi Kars,

UCG affirms the existence of both: “[T]he LORD'S throne is in heaven” (Psalm 11:4 KJV). Jesus “is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 8:1, ESV 2011).” “‘[T]he depths of God…the limits of the Almighty…are higher than the heavens…are deeper than Sheol’” (Job 11:7-8a, HCSB 2009). “‘Ask for a sign…from the depths of Sheol to the heights of heaven’” (Isaiah 7:11 HCSB).

What the Beyond Today presenters are referring to here by the shorthand phrase “belief in heaven” is the “belie[f] you're going to go to heaven.”

Heaven exists—but it’ not our destination.

Everyone’s consciousness ceases at death: “it is appointed for man to die once” (Hebrews 9:27 ESV). “What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?” (Psalm 89:48). “[T]hey die, and return to their dust” (Ps. 104:29 KJV). “[I]n death…in Sheol,” “there is no remembrance of [God]” (Ps. 6:5 ESV) because consciousness itself has ceased: “[H]e returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish” (Psalm 146:4b KJV).

“‘[T]he dead know nothing’ [Ecc. 9:5]…[but] ‘those who are asleep…the dead in Christ will rise…to meet the Lord’ [1 Thes. 4:15-17]… those who are in their graves will be resurrected, rising to meet…Christ [at His second coming]…then return[ing] to the earth to reign with Him in the Kingdom of God” as referenced in 2 Tim. 2:12 and Rev. 20:6.


Only Christ has ascended into heaven: Even “‘David himself [“‘a man after [God’s] own heart…[to] fulfil[l] all [God’s] will” (Acts 13:24b KJV)] never ascended into heaven’” (Acts 2:34a, NLT 2007). “‘No one has ascended into heaven except [Christ]’” (John 3:13a ESV).

“The reward of the saints is eternal life in the Kingdom of God…on the earth rather than in heaven…‘a kingdom…they will reign on the earth’ [Rev. 5:10b].”


“If fear of punishment is our only motivation for obedience, then we will fail to develop a healthy relationship with God…based upon an overwhelming awe and reverence of His righteousness, holiness, creative genius, love, mercy, His eternity, His…law.”



KARS's picture

These responses are awesome guys. I do understand and not only await Jesus Christ second coming, millienum, but the coming of the New Jerusalem and beyond. :o)

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