So. I just finished watching The Good Place for the second time. It only took three days, wow. I’m thinking of making it some sort of yearly tradition or something, because I love this show so much. It’s a world I really enjoy being in, intellectually speaking. It would be a horror show in real life, but I love the characters, and the story, and all of the relationships. #Chileanor forever. Except not, obviously.
Also, spoilers, in case you didn’t know.
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The last time I talked about the Good Place, it put me into a crisis of faith and an existential crisis in general. I wondered whether it’s possible that an eternity in paradise would eventually be horrible. The conclusion of The Good Place is that the only thing that makes like special and meaningful is it’s finality. Basically the argument that value comes from scarcity. Breaking life down to basic economics. In this world, life on earth is a chance to rack up points that will determine what kind of after life you’ll have. Originally this point total would determine whether you’re going to be tortured forever, or whether you get to have eternal bliss where you get everything you want and everything is perfect. But, the main characters find out (after they’re dead) that the system isn’t fair, firstly because life is so complicated that even someone trying to do their best won’t get enough points because every action just has too many ripple effects. Also that trying to live a perfect life on earth is a kind of torture. RIP Doug Forcett (also, why did they do Alberta so dirty? Just do it right or leave Canadians alone). Secondly, this cut and dry, black and white division between good and evil is very inflexible and doesn’t account for the people who weren’t saints but weren’t crime lords, either. Thirdly, it means that people who weren’t saintly enough, or lived in a less complicated time, get severely tortured despite not doing anything that wrong. The punishment is too harsh for the action. So in the new system, life on earth provides a baseline for a test in the afterlife that will make you face your deepest deficiencies until you respond to them properly. Then you get to go to The Good Place where you get what you want all the time and everything is perfect.
But not. Because in this version of the afterlife, everyone is bored, their brains are melting from lack of stimulation, and they are basically still running parallel to earth time (Jeremy Bearimy or not, these Good Place residents feel like they’ve been in the Good Place for millennia). They’ve run out of things to do or think about, and they are basically become zombies.
So, the solution is to provide a second death, where, when the residents are ready, they can walk through a door and basically have their essences dissolved so that they have no consciousness, and this essence, made up of all the lessons learned in the tests, returns to earth to be the “little voice” or conscience that guides people to be better. The wave returns to the ocean and all that, and this is what gives their afterlives meaning.
The question of what happens when we die is an important one. It’s a universal problem we all have, the great equalizer: everyone is going to die at some point. Of course we want to develop some sort of certainty about what that will entail. Some people are certain that they will be reincarnated based on what kind of life they live. Some believe that they will go to some sort of heaven or hell based on one factor or another. Some believe that you just become nothing. You cease, and that’s it. And some people believe that everyone goes to a “better place” no matter what. As for me and a lot of other Christians, we believe that if you die with faith in Jesus and receive his forgiveness, you will go to heaven, and if you die rejecting Him, you go to hell. Our version of heaven and hell is a lot different than the Good Place versions, and these differences are really important to understanding why I’m happy I believe in the Bible and not The Good Place. Plus, this show raises some questionable implications about suicide and euthanasia.
Let’s start with hell. In the Good Place, much like Lucifer, hell is a place where people go to be tortured by demons. These demons enjoy their work, which includes creating psychological torture scenarios as well as just general physical pain. They look forward to planning and designing punishments, and in general feel some morality about the fact they are torturing “evil” people. In the Good Place, you go to hell if you don’t get enough points, and in Lucifer, you go to hell if you die feeling guilty about something. And don’t worry, I’ll probably get my critic on for Lucifer sometimes soon too – as you know, I love that show, and enjoy complaining about it. It’s the ultimate “the book was better” but this time it’s about your mortal soul, so.
Anyway, just like in Lucifer, the demons of the Good Place are bored. They’ve been doing the same old thing since the beginning of time. But unlike Lucifer, the demons in the Good Place want to innovate hell instead of come live on earth. This is a common misconception about demons that media likes to portray: that demons are running hell, and their job is to torture people. In reality, demons in the Bible are fallen angels, people like humans who have turned away from God, and will go to the hell that God has prepared for everyone that rejects him. So for anyone wondering why God doesn’t punish horrible people, don’t worry, He will.
Unlike in Lucifer and the Good Place, demons and angels don’t team up together. And again, they don’t design hell or torture people – they will be suffering right along with the worst of them. So you don’t have to worry about being tormented by immortal beings, at least, so that’s a relief.
As problematic as these portrayals of hell are, heaven is even worse, because this is the thing that The Good Place is teaching people to reject. They are teaching that an eternal existence can never be satisfying, and eventually will become torturous and meaningless. Which is really depressing and hopeless. But it’s a great alternative to believing in Jesus, because you can believe that you’ll be in control of your afterlife and when you’re done with it, you can peace out into nothingness.
The way The Good Place functions compared to the heaven of the Bible is very different. The most heartbreaking thing about the afterlives of these characters is that until they are atomized in the suicide door, their existence consists of slowly watching their loved ones go through. Wondering who’s going to be next. Mourning when the time comes. Missing them when they’re gone. So, basically, it is exactly like life on Earth, except this is supposed to be paradise.
The other thing is that time is measured in this afterlife. There are day and night cycles, and time passes in Jeremy Bearimys, and it doesn’t matter that these are basically time loops, because they aren’t. They are counted and kept track of and do progress in a linear way, because no one can time travel or manipulate the passage of time except for the eternal beings. So, yeah, if you start thinking about how you’ve been in that place for eleven-hundred Bearimys, that would eventually start to drive you a little crazy. Then a lot. and more and more forever.
And finally, everyone is just really bored. They have to wait to be inspired to find an afterlife calling, if they do end up finding one, or someone has to lead them to it. They check things off their bucket lists, often as a sort of countdown to walking through the door. In some instances achieving some big, impossible goal is their signal that it’s time to end their consciousness. So, while this show was all about exploring how to design a better heaven using ethics to make things fair and useful, a human-designed heaven falls very short of something desirable. I surely wouldn’t want an afterlife like that!
After my last Good Place existential crisis, I got together with some friends from work and we talked about what we think heaven will be like, based on the Bible. Whether it will be boring, considering it will last forever. And finally I was able to realize that yes, heaven is a place that I want to be. When I think about my relationship with Jesus, and how wonderful it is to get that feeling of being close to him, those fractions of moments of peace and rightness, but how so often things get in the way, I can feel excited to have that feeling all the time some day. Same thing with when I’m feeling connected with friends, or with my son, and for a moment everything just feels so right and amazing. It doesn’t feel that way because it’s going to be over eventually. These experiences are enjoyable for their own sake. And while heaven might not be flying sky high all the time, at least we know that we will never have anything negative. Sometimes, it will be a sense of peace and calm. Sometimes it will be hysterical laughter, or uncontrollable excitement. Sometimes it will be that moment where you realize something at the same time as someone else and you quietly just acknowledge it together. I can definitely get behind that.
And there won’t be time. As strange as I think it will be to not have day/night cycles anymore and to just have eternal days, the fact is that we won’t need to sleep anyway. True eternity is immeasurable. That’s the problem with the Jeremy Bearimy eternity – they are keeping track. But in heaven you get to just go from one exciting activity to the next, or to go and rest quietly either by yourself or with loved ones or with Jesus. Think about things that you love to do, and how nice it would be to have endless time for it, with nothing getting in your way. I, for one, really enjoy being near water. I imagine in heaven I’ll be swimming in beautiful rivers and oceans that are the perfect temperature, and afterward I’ll sit and read a book by a grassy shore with just my feet in. Maybe have a picnic there with my son or friends. Being able to swim out in the ocean and dive down without an oxygen tank and look at all the colourful, amazing life down there. And flowers. I absolutely love flowers. Just to sit and be surrounded in a beautiful rainbow garden filled with butterflies and birds that land on your finger and don’t peck you. Just endless time with the people that you love, in healthy, functioning, thriving relationships. Getting to meet new people (trillions of them!) and getting to know more about them, sharing more and more new experiences with them, and taking a moment here and there to marvel at how amazing it is that this will never end. For example, right now, I’m bummed out that I have to stop working on my blog and go to bed. Imagine endless blogging time!
And jobs! Everyone will have a job. Work is holy and was created before the fall, and it’s a blessing to be able to create or achieve something together. I imagine that I could still be writing books up there, that will speak to people and inspire them. God will have endless time to sit and go over my writing with me. And I’ll have endless time to focus on my characters and world building. I’ll be part of a writers group, and it will be satisfying feelings of people understanding and loving my work and where I’m trying to take it. Not in the weird Good Place architect way where everyone is just positivity robots with eternal happy smiles and no common sense.
I imagine I would also have my enterprising company up there, and we would still make beautiful videos and posters and plan events for people. Start cafes and have concerts and other functions. Carnivals! Like Calgary Stampede, but everything is free, nothing makes you fat, and there’s no drunk people. As for everything being free, I don’t know what the hype is about needing to struggle to be satisfied Honestly, I know some people say that value comes from scarcity, but I am not going to complain about being able to order some vegan tacos from my friend’s heaven taco truck and just walk away without paying. I will not be pining for a monetary system.
Sorry, I don’t know if accountants go to heaven. I guess we’ll find out.
And, you’ll be able to go and learn whatever job you want (probably except for the obvious ones like drug trafficking, nuclear weapons manufacturing, and accounting)! You’ll still be you. You’ll still have your personality and interests, they will just have the clogs of sin removed, so that you can turn your full potential on. I’m looking forward to learning hobbies like how to play piano. Giving a concert one day. I look forward to climbing the tallest trees barefoot and getting a breathless view of a perfect world. Taking a trip to Mexico for dinner, France for lunch, and Australia for supper, on a private plane where the food doesn’t lose it’s flavour.
Oh, and clothes! Jewellery, perfume. Endless options for colours, and style. Shoes….so many shoes…Honest, hell on earth for me is the fact that no stores in my city stock my size of shoe. I’m going to heaven just to be able to finally get pants and shoes that fit me properly. I’ll probably spend a lot of my time shopping and eating tacos, actually.
Another thing I look forward to is my heaven body. No more of this writer’s back, full of herniated disks and alignment issues. No more getting sore feet from walking to my favorite place by the river. No more scars or stretch marks, and my hair will always be just the way I want it. “And you shall go on writing marathons without your bottom becoming sore, you shall type and not get carpal tunnel, work and not get a crick in your neck.”
I also can’t wait to see my house! A house designed by a God who loves me and knows me, and not some accounting algorithm. Something that’s actually going to fill me up and make me feel cozy. I absolutely love houses. I imagine that mine will be on a hill overlooking a river or ocean, with a big balcony patio that has room for a huge dining set. I’ll be hitting up heaven Rona like nobody’s business, without having to pay for delivery, and never having to worry about something not being in stock. Again, I do not feel like my experience at Rona is made better because by the time I order something they could be sold out. I do not get a thrill out of that.
And cars! I’ll have my license up there and I won’t be able to get into any accidents. My pick of beautiful cars of all body types and colours and customizations, blasting some sick beats while cruising down the highway on my way to a Newsboys concert. Living the dream!
And what’s even better is that there won’t be any tests. You’re not going to be faced with anything heartbreaking, or traumatic, or upsetting to see whether you respond a certain way. You’re not going to be reincarnated hundreds or thousands of times until you get it right. I kind of agree with Chidi’s whole thing about how the fact that he keeps getting his memory wiped puts into question whether he’s the same person or if there are multiple versions of himself in different timelines. No mind bending stuff. You can take philosophy classes in heaven, but it won’t be because you’re trying to avoid getting kicked out. We’ll be able to ask questions of the King himself, and hear him laugh and nerd out about all of it. Finally get answers to some of the questions we have here, but are completely incapable of understanding until we get up there. Like trying to use Microsoft 85 files with a Microsoft 365 program. It just doesn’t work, and we can’t fault God for not shoving it up in there no matter how much we beg for answers.
In conclusion, true heaven is not going to be some brain numbing, tedious, depressing place with diminishing returns. It will be a vibrant, dynamic universe where you’ll have a variety of emotions, experiences, conversations, travel, food, craft, culture, movies, concerts, plays, binging shows, art and personal development, with people who will always make you feel good, with endless options of ways to rest or find excitement. It’s everything that you love about your life on earth with the promise that you don’t have to worry about it ending. All the joys of lock-down living without the pandemic part. It’s all the people you love on earth and everything about them that makes you feel connected to them, without the toxicity or annoyances like spit-talking. God knows how to make a good heaven. And in the same way that Jesus came to earth to bring the full meaning of the law, heaven will be what it’s like when you’re not even thinking about the law, you’re just enjoying the order, stability, fairness, and ultimately enjoyment that it brings. Most importantly, heaven is about being with a God who is happy to see you, knows you, wants to have conversations with you and play frisbee with you and sing with you and sit quietly with you and and just loves that you’re home. Finally, having the Garden of Eden experience of walking in fellowship with him, with full knowledge of why his way is truth and life.
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13