Levels of Heaven? Matthew 5:19

I have always thought that there was only one level of heaven - either you are in or you are out. Recently, I read Matthew 5:19 again, and it reads, “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” This leads me to think that there may be different levels of heaven - “least in the kingdom of heaven” certainly sounds like different than “greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Can anyone clear this up for me? Thanks.

Hello cjaubert,

The whole purpose in free-willed life is to give man the opportunity to love God. The only thing in the universe worth allowing hatred, sin and damnation is love. God allows many horrible things in order to give man the capacity to produce the fruit of love for God. Those who produce great amounts of free willed love for God on earth will possess a great treasure in heaven.

When every I read Jesus parable on the pearl of great fortune, I think of Mother Theresa and the tremendous amount of love and personal sacrifice she prepared for God through her free willed choices on earth. Though both Mother Theresa and the theif on the cross next to Jesus are in heaven, Mother Theresa bears far more wealth in heaven than the thief.

NIV 1JO 5:3

This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.

NAB SIR 35:6

The just man’s sacrifice is most pleasing, nor will it ever be forgotten . In generous homage to the LORD be not sparing of freewill gifts.
NAB LUK 12:31

Instead,** seek his kingdom**, and these other things will be given you besides. Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
NAB MAT 13:44

“The reign of God is like a buried treasure which a man found in a field. He hid it again, and rejoicing at his find went and sold all he had and bought that field. Or again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant’s search for fine pearls. When he found one really valuable pearl, he went back and put up for sale all that he had and bought it.” NAB LUK 12:15

Then he said to the crowd, “Avoid greed in all its forms. A man many be wealthy, but his possessions do not guarantee him life.” He told them a parable in these words: “There was a rich man who had a good harvest. ‘What shall I do?’ he asked himself. ‘I have no place to store my harvest. I know!’ he said. ‘I will pull down my grain bins and build larger ones. All my grain and my goods will go there. Then I will say to myself: You have blessings in reserve for years to come. Relax! Eat heartily, drink well. Enjoy yourself.’ **But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life shall be required of you. **To whom will all this piled-up wealth of yours go?’ That is the way it works with the man who grows rich for himself instead of growing rich in the sight of God.”

NAB JOH 15:16

It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and** bear fruit that will remain**, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you:** love one another.**

[quote=cjaubert]I have always thought that there was only one level of heaven - either you are in or you are out. Recently, I read Matthew 5:19 again, and it reads, “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” This leads me to think that there may be different levels of heaven - “least in the kingdom of heaven” certainly sounds like different than “greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Can anyone clear this up for me? Thanks.
[/quote]

I can’t help you on the specific exegesis of that scripture, but the Church does teach that some in Heaven will have more glory than others corresponding to their different merits. An analogy that is made is that of a large tumbler and a small cup, both filled to the brim with water. While one contains more water than the other, they are both equally full. The intensity of love and joy will vary but everyone will be wholly happy.

Is there anything in the Catechism about this? I’ve looked but just can’t find it. I do, though, understand the tumbler and thimble analogy and I suppose it works for me, absent anything else. Thanks much.

:bowdown2: Because I struggle with myself more than I imagine other souls do, I have my hopes set on being a thimble - what a great spot to be in! We are “All called to be great Saints” - I remember Mother Angelica telling us that more than once and it is an awesome challenge. I will keep asking Our Dear Lord in His Mercy to help me - for me its a challenge to do the asking (I need to do this in all things and I don’t):frowning: But I will soldier on! Thank You Lord for giving me my Catholic Faith! I spent a lot of my lifetime taking it for granted and easily forgetting to work at it. How awesome is our Faith!

cj,

in your search you may also run into 2 cor 12:2-3:

“I know a man in Christ, who, fourteen years ago, whether he was in or outside his body I cannot say, only God can say– a man who was snatched up to the** third **Heaven. I know that this man– whether in or outside his body I do not know, God knows– was snatched up to Paradise to hear words which cannot be uttered, words which no man may speak”

don’t be confused by this either. there is only one heaven, where we all experience the love of God in the full amount as we are able. if you need a fuller explaination of the “third heaven”, it can be found at cicdc.org/resources/resources.cfm?task=ind&id=9.

to echo an earlier statement about our heavenly rewards and the fullness of love which we experience, you may re-read the beatitudes and ccc 1716-1724 (specifically, the final promise of the beatitudes - “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”).

finally, in heaven we do not stop being who we are:

**1025 **To live in heaven is “to be with Christ.” The elect live “in Christ,” but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name. For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom.

if you don’t love Christ/christian brotheren much here, you won’t love Christ/christian brotheren much there. you will continue to be who you are, as your uniqueness is a gift of God - it’s what you do with it that counts!

p.s.,
here is a link to an online catechism with a GREAT search utility… scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

hope this helps,
RyanL

Hi Chris,

The definition of heaven is “Seeing God face to face”. Now, as you know, God is infinite;so no human can fully “see” him. But there can be different degrees in “seeing” him – unlimited in number.

The Catechism speaks of heaven in paragraphs 1023 and following. This section does not speak to the “degrees” of merit, but you can also read the sections on “merit” and “holiness”, which begin with paragraph 2006. I call your attention to paragraph 2016:

[size=3]**2016 **The children of our holy mother the Church rightly hope for the grace of final perseverance and the recompense of God their Father for the good works accomplished with his grace in communion with Jesus. Keeping the same rule of life, believers share the “blessed hope” of those whom the divine mercy gathers into the “holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”[/size]

“Acquiring merits” makes no sense unless there is some king of a “payoff”.

Verbum

These phrases are just a case of Jesus commenting on the man-made laws, rebuking the Pharisees, and conrrasting to God’s laws.

What he is saying is if you don’t follow the local laws, it’s not as important in Heaven as following God’s laws.

[quote=cjaubert]Is there anything in the Catechism about this? I’ve looked but just can’t find it.
[/quote]

I asked a priest I trust about this very topic (and levels of hell too.) According to him, the Church does not take an official position on this one way or the other. Many of the mystics I’ve read write about various levels of reward and punishment. But we are not required to believe private revelations that saints report. Some scripture passages seem to indicate the different levels also (as you noted), but we are neither required nor prevented from interpretting them that way.

Personally, I believe there are different levels to both heaven and hell. The priest with whom I spoke wouldn’t state his opinion, but expressed more concerned with getting people into heaven and keeping them out of hell rather than worrying about what’s going to happen in either place.

It is an infallible teaching of the Church that:
The degree of perfection of the beatific vision granted to the just is proportioned to each one’s merits (De fide.)

The Decretum pro Graceis of the Union Council of Florence (1439) declared: souls of the perfectly just “clearly behold the Triune and One God as He is, but corresponding to the difference of their merits, the one more perfectly than the other.” D 693 The Council of Trent defined that the justified person merits an increase of the heavenly glory by good works. D 842 (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott, p. 479)

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