GETTING to HEAVEN
Straight talk from
Mark M Robbins BA MBA CMA CFM
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. The Road to Heaven
MY CONVERSION: MIRACLE IN NORTH CAROLINA (A Must read!)
A VIEW FROM ABOVE
WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN
WHAT IS NOT A CHRISTIAN?
JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM – PROVING CHRISTIANITY TRUE
ARE WE SAVED BY FAITH OR BY OUR WORKS?
II. Heaven Itself
WHERE WE GO WHEN WE DIE
ASPECT OF HEAVEN
III. False Paths
FALSE IDOLS & NEW AGE
HEAVEN’S AWFUL ALTERNATIVE – HELL
V. End Times Made Easy
THE SECOND COMING
VI. Provocative Subjects
WHAT ABOUT ABORTION, CHILDREN, AND THE HANDICAPPED?
JESUS AS THE ONLY WAY TO HEAVEN
HOW CAN I NOT GO TO HELL?
DO PETS GO TO HEAVEN
WHAT HAPPENS TO THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER HEARD OF JESUS?
WHY DOES GOD ALLOW BAD THINGS TO HAPPEN?
WHY WON’T GOD ANSWER MY PRAYER?
HEAVEN’s DIFFERENT NAMES
MY DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS OF JESUS BEFORE HIS ASCENSION
THE AMAZING ADOPTION STORY OF MY TWIN BOYS
This book started as a simple request from my father. My father, who was bravely fighting stage four cancer, asked that I put together a small “package” of Christian basics. I agreed to do it and in doing so, I decided I didn’t want to stop. Hence a 3- or 4-page compilation turned into a lengthy book! This book has been a joy to put together. The good news for you is you can take advantage of my “sweat equity” by simply turning the pages. Below I share with you the many ways this book will benefit you. I am so sure of these benefits that I claim them as promises.
~ I promise that the information contained in this book is based on excellent scholarly thought and scripture. For nonbelievers I provide more than enough information in helping you decide whether or not you wish to choose the route to Heaven.
~ For the beginning or nominal Christian, I guarantee that this book will serve as an excellent foundation for your Christian study.
~ For seasoned Christians I promise that you will learn facts in certain areas previously unknown to you. You will have many “aha” experiences.
~ Being that I back my writing with more than 1,000 scriptures, your understanding of the Bible will enormously increase in that you will have the advantage of seeing many verses that support given topics.
~ I pledge that many of you will have an experience similar to the reader whom I quote next. This reader told me: “You know, Mark, I’d like to read the Bible every night but I don’t always get to it. Sometimes when I do, I get confused and feel like I am wasting my time. I am glad you cite so many scriptures because otherwise I might not see them. The fact that you quote them where they are applicable makes it that much better.”
~ I ensure that my writing style will be easy to understand and won’t be too “high-brow.” This book is written for the average person and not the biblical scholar.
~ I guarantee this book will win souls to Christ. All of the “fence sitters” and “toe dippers” will be pushed!
Lastly, I would like to share the most heart-warming compliment I have received. Knowing my family members have been in and out of church for most of their lives, my older brother told me, “I am proud of you for doing this for the family.” I pray you can have similar experiences for yourself. What greater gift can we give than bringing someone to Christ and introducing them to eternal life in Heaven!
The summaries on this page are backed by scripture. The book supports the flowcharts below. They will be useful if, during your reading, you become confused and are in need of finding your place.
I. The Road to Heaven
MY CONVERSION: MIRACLE IN NORTH CAROLINA (A MUST READ!!)
How would you react if you were broken down 500 miles from home and two black men approached you on the side of the road?
What would you say to them if they offered to tow your car 20 miles in an area unknown to you?
Would you trust them to “shuttle” you around for a week while your car was fix.
My answer to all these questions was “yes” and in so doing my life’s trajectory changed. What followed was a story of Good Samaritans, the shattering of racial barriers, and the groundwork for my Christian conversion. It began on Interstate 95 in North Carolina… mile marker 149. I was traveling from Florida to Pennsylvania with the goal of moving closer to my adopted twin boys who had been relocated a 1,000 miles from my home.
I was coasting along until the lights in my car went off. My engine went dead. I had just replaced the engine in Florida prior to leaving. The thousands I had saved up to buy a new engine were now wasted. What was I to do? Return the engine? Hardly…. a preposterous notion given that I had already traveled 500 miles. Pay for a new one? I was too cash strapped. I was stuck. I sat by the side of the road with a glazed look. Thus, it was while I was sitting on the side of the road that my life would change forever.
The first Good Samaritan pulled over to help me. His name was Ed Vincent West. I would later learn that Ed, a Christian, had prayed that morning to “put someone in his life” that he could help. He sensed his Christian walk was becoming stale. I also learned that he had intended to get off the prior exit but “somehow” missed it.
Ed had a business appointment he had to attend and promised to stop back. The next thing I knew a tow truck pulled up and the driver said “Ed West sent me and said you needed some help.” The driver’s name was Deral Hedgepeth - a friend of Ed’s.
As Ed would later say in a church testimony, “Mark showed faith by allowing two black men to pull over and help him while stranded. He could have just as easily been jumped rather than helped.” What was ironic is that when Deral pulled up with his tow truck, I had already called AAA and their truck arrived at the same time as Deral’s. But I knew that AAA would tow me to a garage that would know how desperate I was and would undoubtedly try to fleece me. My “God instinct” was to go with the Good Samaritans, Ed and Deral. It was a true leap of faith because at that time I had absolutely no way of getting home. There was no way I had the $ 5,000 that it cost me to just fix the engine in Florida.
I was in no position to question anything. I assumed that this was a “God thing” or perhaps a payback for the good deed I performed when I picked up a man in South Carolina who was walking alongside the road, 20 miles from the next exit, and carrying a sign that said “I am the Messiah.” This is no joke. He had no destination. It appeared that he perhaps was a paranoid schizophrenic as he was suspicious of restaurant food being poisoned. How he survives out on the highways I am sure is another “God story” in itself. Either way I gave him money for food at the next exit.
Back in North Carolina Deral introduced himself to me and asked if he could tow my car to his friend’s car parts yard where they could help me. After obliging, I soon found myself 20 miles west of I-95 near Hollister, North Carolina. His friend Ralph, like Ed and Deral, was a Christian. Ralph immediately began a search for a replacement engine for me.
(In the picture below from left to right is Shante West (Ed’s wife), Ed West, Deral Hedgepeth, and Ed’s son Jamal)
As I was awaiting the “status” of my car, Deral asked me if I’d like to go to a prayer meeting that night. I said, “Sure… I have no other plans. (ha ha)” As it turned out, Ed and Deral’s families played “tag team” as far as taking care of me over the next week. They drove me back and forth to my hotel, had me over for dinner every night, and took me to two church services.
The prayer meeting was held at 7 PM on a Friday night. The gathering was like nothing I had ever experienced. It was a foot-stomping, hand-clapping, raucous affair the likes of which I had never seen. The meeting was held in a refurbished garage with the only accessories being fold-up chairs. Though I at first felt a bit awkward being the only white person among in a room of fifty whose descent was either African or Halifax Indian (or both). Soon these feelings dissolved. The Spirit was alive in this room. Ed and his wife Shante demonstrated this by speaking in tongues for the very first time. I felt like I was in a movie (and I kidded Deral that he reminded me of Morgan Freeman).
I was asked to stand in the center of the room where I was introduced and prayed over. I can remember an older gentleman exhorting, “God bless this man! Break all generational curses! Give this man prosperity!” The part about prosperity seemed a little “fishy” to me. I asked myself, “How the heck am I going to receive prosperity in the middle of rural North Carolina (Halifax County)? Soon thereafter a collection bucket was passed around. The collection was counted and then I was approached. They said to me, “This is for you.” It was 800 dollars. I was astounded. I was amazed at the fact that in this day and age that people like this existed… people who would give so unconditionally… with absolutely no strings attached. They knew they would probably never see me again.
I became more convinced of their purity and selflessness after thanking them repeatedly and having them refuse to take credit. Their response was always the same: “To God goes the glory.” It soon dawned on me that these folks didn’t need my adulation. They had already tapped into the deepest treasure and ultimate joy… receiving God’s love and sharing it with others.
This represented the beginning of my conversion experience. These individuals personified the essence of Christianity and they clearly “had what I wanted.” Prior to this my church experience included the Unity Church (not really a church as they stand for everything and are convicted of nothing) and the Mormon Church (represented by an initial “love bomb,” a “salvation by works” model, and a number of other questionable doctrinal beliefs).
The balance of the week in North Carolina consisted of prayer meetings, nightly dinners, a business trip with Ed, and other gracious fellowship. The evening prior to my departure I attended a Wednesday night service. At this service both Ed and I both shared testimonies about the compelling series of events. See photo below. I am standing in the center and Ed is to my right.
It was now Thursday morning and I had been in Hollister for a week. This was my last day. I received a knock on my hotel door… and the generosity continued to flow. On the other side stood Shante (Ed’s wife) and a delightful fellow named Fred Hedgepeth (no relation to Deral Hedgepeth). These two folks had actually picked up my car for me and drove it right to the hotel! The cost for the new engine was less than a third of what I paid in Florida. As much as I would have liked to visit further, Ed wisely stated that it was time to go as the number seven represents completion and it had been 7 days. In addition, at the cheap hotel I was staying at, there were signs of prostitution and drug dealing. It was time to “get out of dodge.”
My very last visitor was Deral Hedgepeth who dropped by to give me a beautiful leather jacket, some winter clothes, and an envelope with “Broken Chains Ministry” written on it. Inside was another two hundred dollars. With that I was on my way.
Post script: Since that week I have stayed in contact with all my friends in North Carolina. I have shared this story with literally hundreds of people and have touched the hearts of many in the process… including that of the Executive Pastor of my church. After a morning prayer, the Spirit moved Pastor Gibbons and prompted him to offer a church donation to the ministry of those who helped me in North Carolina. A check was sent for an amount of $ 2,500.00 !! Their good deeds resulted in “3 fold” fruit.
But it didn’t end there. In December of 2011 I received a Facebook message from Ed West that said: Mark, “If don’t see you on Earth, we’ll have to catch up in Heaven.” It had been six years since I saw him. I decided that “Heaven” was too long a wait. I decided to head from Pennsylvania to North Carolina for a five day trip.
While there I told my friend Deral Hedgepeth that Hollister, North Carolina represented to me “hallowed ground.” Deral felt that this was ironic considering the town had its share of troubles (including drug problems). I suppose I bumped into exactly the right people!
In 2011 was fortunate to have received some financial blessings which prompted me to share some of it with people that meant so much to me. I was all too eager to gift some money back to Ed and Deral and their families and ministries. Rural North Carolina is a tough place to make a lot of money, so I was happy to give where I did. Including what Pastor Gibbons of The Back Mountain Harvest Assembly church had already sent to them, I was able to give them a total of about 7 ½ times that they gave me. God’s Kingdom does not always act in such a linear, mathematical way – but when it does it’s really neat!
Next you can see a Christmas card of the West family (Ed, Shante, Victoria, and Jamal). Shante blessed me with one of the nicest messages I have ever received.
The picture below is from January, 2011. This represented my first visit since my initial encounter five years prior. (from left to right is Deral Hedgepeth, our friend Reggie, Ed West, Deral’s mom, a friend named Queen Glen, Jamal West (Ed’s son), me, Deral’s father)
II. A VIEW FROM ABOVE
My goal is to bridge the gap between what the Bible says about Heaven and what the typical person knows about Heaven. Along the way I will answer some of the more troubling and puzzling questions people have about Christianity. The lack of understandable answers to these questions keeps many on the outside looking in. These people remain at best as religious “toe dippers.” For both nonbelievers and seasoned Christians, this book will help demystify Heaven and will provide a roadmap for both securing Heaven and gaining its rewards. This chapter will briefly describe Heaven and provide flowcharts gleaned from scripture. These charts will explain some of the Christian laws that are working as we speak. I then will explore the edge between mortality and death (and afterlife).
Many individuals are confused about Heaven. People are “cutting and pasting” views from a variety of sources – television, movies, and conversations with friends… even Oprah. The result is a highly subjective theology of Heaven, completely disconnected from its biblical doctrine. The truth is that we all will be leaving our places on Earth and spending eternity in a new place. Yet what’s inconceivable is our lack of knowledge, study, and preparation for our ultimate destination.
Would it not be strange if we failed to seek information about our eternal home? Wouldn’t such information be salient to how we live our lives today? Say you knew you’d win the lottery tomorrow… wouldn’t this affect your outlook in the present? If you knew for sure that you were soon going to Heaven, wouldn’t this also inspire your outlook today? It has been said that anyone who has a Bible in tatters has a life that’s not. D.L. Moody says, “Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people.” Given that “Heaven” is cited more than 500 times in 60 different canonical books – doesn’t it deserve a look?
Ninety-year-old author, J. Oswald Sanders, decided to take up his pen in writing “Heaven: Better by Far.” He explained that few people had ever heard a sermon on Heaven. He visited a Christian bookstore and couldn’t find a single book on the topic. He discovered that in our materialistic world, the subject of Heaven was relegated to the backburner. By studying and focusing on Heaven, we begin the process of “collapsing” our heavenly future into our present which allows us to live inspired lives.
Unfortunately, most books on Heaven are notorious for saying, “we can’t know what Heaven is like – but it’s more wonderful than we can imagine.” It is tough to grasp such a notion. Such descriptions pour cold water on our imaginations and our ability to conceive of Heaven. Describing Heaven as something beyond our five senses is not appealing. In fact it is a bit frightening. Heaven represents a dimension not accessible through our earthly view. Trying to understand it would be like trying to explain the earth’s properties to a worm. We must accept Heaven by the promises made in scripture. To choose Christ is to embrace the light. It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
To get a picture of Heaven, which will one day be centered upon a “New Earth” (right here!), we don’t need to fixate on the clouds. We instead should envision a place where we are reunited with those before us. Heaven is a place with no sin, death, suffering, or corruption. It’s a place of loving harmony. We will not only know our family of believers here on earth, but we will know all of the great saints in history who died as believers before us! The list includes C.S. Lewis, Oswald Chambers, and any other historical figure who was a Christian. How cool is that?
An even more remote topic from the pulpit is “hell.” I personally have never seen a live sermon on hell. I did, however, see Billy Graham speak about it on a 1970 “Crusade” re-run. Perhaps ministers are fearful of scaring people away. Of course, from what I have researched, Satan prefers it this way. He likes to “slink in the reeds” where he isn’t noticed. Since this topic is largely ignored in sermons today, I gave it particular attention in my “Satan and Hell” section. I believe I did an excellent job in tying together Satan, the False Prophet, the Antichrist, and demons. I am sure you will find it both readable and illuminating.
Heaven stands as an anchor ahead of us reeling us in. It is calling for us to continually live a holy life. A holy life is one that is saintly, godly, pious, and devout. Yet consider how the secular world asks us to continually compromise. This is a movement away from holiness and godliness. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “Let us consider one another in order to stir up good works… to exhort one another, and so much the more as you see the “day” approaching.” The “day” refers to the time of Christ’s return (the Rapture) and the verse tells us that what we believe about the future determines how we live today.
The truth we need to concern ourselves with is the redemptive work of Christ. Our pain and suffering may or may not be alleviated in this life, but it will certainly be relieved in the next. Christ has promised to remove death and pain and to wipe away our tears. This is what we should be excited about! Heaven is entirely relevant for today! When we know where we are going, it makes all the difference in the world. The coming of Christ and the doctrine of Heaven provides not only a vision of a glorious future, but provides some of the strongest motivation to live a Christian life today. We can’t afford to ignore Heaven. (D Jeremiah telecast)
Revelation 21:27 says, “Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (The “Lamb’s Book of Life” is a list of those people destined for Heaven). Countless people throughout the ages have been too busy or too distracted to respond to Christ’s invitation. The MOST COMMON MISTAKE people make is that they assume they will be in Heaven because they are “good enough.” This includes those people who have attended church, been baptized, and have volunteered. Unfortunately their various “works” won’t gain them entry to Heaven. Works do play a role in one sense (more on “rewards” later), but in terms of gaining entry to Heaven – it is based on faith. In fact, it’s all quite simple. Our faith will be reflected in our hearts. All we’re required to do is to put our faith in a man (Jesus) who died a horrific death so we can be free. Is this entirely logical? Perhaps not. Maybe this is why Isaiah 53:5 tells us that “His ways are greater than our ways.”
The most common mistake people make about Heaven is
they assume they have to be “good enough.”
A major source of confusion is where we go just after we die. Though the Bible tells us we will be given glorified (physical) bodies in the future (in the New Heaven/ New earth/ New Jerusalem), it does not tell us what form we would currently assume. Since we are given bodies in the future, we will most likely be partly physical in the present. This will be discussed in the section on Heaven. Our current heavenly destination is Paradise (just like the thief on the cross was promised). Many authors consider our time in Paradise to be “Intermediate” since both Paradise and our spirit/physical bodies will ultimately be transformed into something different (fully glorified bodies).
Confused? Please allow the following summaries shed some light on what we are destined for. I put together the following summaries and flowcharts after researching The Bible and many Christian books for more than a year. These summaries are what most scholars and authors agree on. Please refer to my research as a way to stay grounded as you work your way through the book. You will likely find these summaries invaluable. The topics highlighted in the summaries will all be discussed in detail later on.
Time Period Believers’ Heavenly Form Description of Heaven
Church Age (Last days) until rapture Physical/ Sprit Bodies Paradise
After Church Age (after the rapture) Fully physical/ glorified bodies New Heaven, Earth, & Jerusalem
Church Age/ Last days = period from birth of Christ until rapture; an “intermediate” or “temporary” period
Rapture = Event where living believers are swept up in the air to meet Christ. Additionally, dead believers are lifted from their graves to be with Christ. This happens prior to the Tribulation and approximately seven years before to the second coming of Christ to earth for the Millennium. All believers (both dead and alive) are given glorified bodies. This is the next huge event we as Christians have to look forward to.
Glorified bodies = These are the bodies we (believers) will assume at the time of the rapture and beyond. We will be present in these physical bodies during the seven-year Tribulation, the thousand-year Millennium, and into the New Heaven / New Earth / New Jerusalem. The glorified bodies are perfect, eternal, resurrected, physical bodies not susceptible to sin, sickness, or disease.
New Heaven/ New Earth/ New Jerusalem = The place, here on earth, where eternal Heaven will take place after the 1,000 year Millennium. It will be like Eden before the fall of Adam and Eve.
Many seasoned Christians claim they have never heard of “Intermediate Heaven” though they have heard of the church age for which it coincides. But as you will read, the notion is backed both by scripture and a host of Christian authors such as David Jeremiah, Randy Alcorn, and many others. Why is it intermediate or temporary?
There is nothing to say that this Intermediate Heaven (also called Paradise) is of a lesser nature than the eternal New Heaven/ New Earth/ New Jerusalem. At the time of the rapture, we’ll meet Jesus in the air and we’ll receive our glorified bodies. By being “raptured,” we avoid the horrors of the Tribulation and we’ll be active participants with Jesus in the thousand-year Millennium here on Earth. Eventually we’ll live eternally in the New Heavens and New Earth. This will all be discussed later.
According to C.S. Lewis, the formula is even easier. He explains that man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works. Indeed man couldn’t know how it all works without first accepting it. He tells us this is the formula for Christianity:
A) Christ was killed for us
B) His death washed away our sins (pg 55; Mere Christianity)
C) By dying he disabled death itself and gave us eternal life
BIBLE TIME LINE FOR BELIEVERS
HEAVEN and HELL FLOWCHARTS
Believers > Death > Faith Judgment > Book of Life Acceptance > Intermediate Heaven > Judgment Seat of Christ (deeds) before Millennium > Rewards given to stand-outs > Eternal Heaven (New Earth)
Unbelievers > Earthly Death > Judgment of Faith > Book of Life Rejection > Intermediate Hell > Great White Throne Judgment (deeds) at end of Millennium > People judged by extent of their evil > Lake of Fire (Eternal Hell)
Next I provide an explanation of Jesus’ offer to us. I explain it in terms of the Christian/metaphysical laws that make it all happen. “Being saved” is what the salvation process is all about. Further down I offer a fictional example to help explain the salvation process more fully.
SALVATION’S UNDERLYING LAW (“BEING SAVED”)
Salvation: An Everyday Example: The example that follows is intended to help explain the offer that Jesus is making to us using everyday concerns. If it helps you understand the offer them great! If not then discard it.
Imagine you have credit card debt and it is weighing you down. Collectors are phoning you day and night. You can’t buy a new home and you can’t get a charge card at any of your favorite stores. In fact you can’t get any credit at all. It is even negatively affecting your job search as many companies now run credit checks on its applicants. There’s strain on your marriage and a chronic lump in your stomach.
Then you hear of a group that has similar problems. You feel a little better knowing you’re not alone – but the problem persists. Then a benefactor shows up at one of your meetings. He notes that your record is dirtied and that it’s soiling your reputation around town. Your situation continues to dog you day and night. He makes an offer. He offers to “take on” your debt. He promises to pay off everyone’s debt and clean their records on one condition; an easy stipulation. He asks that you trust him. He asks you to believe that he is who he says he is and that he can do what he is promising to do. If you doubt then he won’t free you.
You even have had the added advantage of seeing others who believed in this man and had their lives radically changed. You see in these people a persistent happiness resulting from the sacrifice the benefactor made for them. You have all the evidence you need. You can evaluate the benefactor’s credibility based on the lives he has already changed! Yet still you balk.
This man is offering you grace. Finally you decide to trust him. He adds your name to his “list” of those he will liberate. Next thing you know you are free! You are free simply because you trusted. The whole notion didn’t make complete sense to you but you trusted anyway. Your debt has been “cleaned up.” Your record is now clean. You can look people in the eyes again and hold your head high. The world no longer sees you as a deadbeat. You have been transformed.
Meanwhile some of your friends are stubborn. They rely on their own wills and can’t make a dent into their mountains of debt. They are afraid to ask for help and continue to live in their Hell-like misery. They even see the “glow” that appears in the eyes of those who accepted the offer and yet are still resistant. These people are enslaved by their willfulness and pride.
Obviously in real life the stakes are higher than mere credit card debt. How silly, and so sad it is, that people allow their stubbornness get in the way of where they will spend eternity! Christ died so that our certificate of debt could once and for all be marked “paid in full.” We need to trust him.
Believing in Jesus is believing that He is who He says He is.
C.S. Lewis describes pride as the great sin. He describes it this way. “There is one sin that is the most treacherous and beguiling. There is one vice of which no man is free; which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else. Hardly anyone besides Christians imagines that they are guilty themselves. I do not think I have ever heard anyone who was not a Christian accuse himself of this vice. And at the same time I have very seldom met anyone, who was not a Christian, who showed the slightest mercy to it in others. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. The more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. The vice I am talking of is pride or self-conceit. The virtue which stands as its opposite is called humility.” (Mere Christianity; p.121)
In ancient times, cities kept rolls of their citizens. Guards were posted at the gates to keep out enemies by checking names against a list. The case is the same for us and our Lord and the list he has put together for us. This is expressed in Revelation 21:27 which says: “Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” This Book contains the names of all those who have accepted Christ and didn’t let their pride get in the way. These people are destined for Heaven. If our name isn’t on the list we are out of luck. Given what’s at stake, what exactly is preventing us from recognizing Jesus for whom He is? How silly would it be to refuse his offer regarding eternal consequences?
Luke 10:18-20 depicts the joy of having our names on the Lamb’s Book of Life. When Jesus chose seventy-two disciples to go out and evangelize, they reported back to Him by saying, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!” Jesus countered by saying “Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.” We serve a God of mercy and grace.
Mercy is God not punishing our sins as deserved.
Mercy is deliverance from judgment.
Grace is God blessing us despite the fact that we do not deserve it.
Grace is extending kindness to the unworthy.
GOD’S PROMISES We cannot anticipate or desire what we cannot imagine. Perhaps this why God has given us glimpses of Heaven in the Bible – to fire up our imagination and kindle a desire for Heaven in our hearts. And this is why other sources will always discourage our imagination – or misdirect it to ethereal notions that violate scripture. As long as a resurrected universe remains undesirable or unimaginable, our love for Heaven will be sabotaged. Our sinful nature will have us naturally look to fulfill our own selfish desires.
The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit comforts and guides us. No matter what level of hardship we encounter – we can always look forward to a glorious life hereafter. 1 Corinthians 2:7-10 says, “No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.’ It was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.”
The important thing about the preceding verse is it suggests that which we could not have otherwise known about Heaven. What we are unable to see ourselves, God has revealed through his Spirit. God has explained to us what Heaven is like – not exhaustively – but accurately. He reveals the bits that He does so we don’t have to live in ignorance. He wants us to live in anticipation of Heaven. The best of life on Earth is a glimpse of Heaven; the worst of life is a glimpse of Hell.
As wonderful and assuring as the biblical images of death are, they are backed up by something even more secure – the solid promises of God. Those who have never believed in Christ may shudder at the prospect of dying, but we who are in Christ have the anchor of God’s Word holding us secure.
For the Christian, death is no longer feared. In our human weakness we still look at death as an ominous foe, but God has given us a specific promise that whatever death brings, it will not separate us from Him. In the book of Romans the apostle Paul assures us that as believers, nothing will separate us from God’s love. Romans 8:39 says, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of Hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
If you or a loved one is in the grip of death, we must grasp what God has promised us in the book of Romans. Nothing will be able to separate us from God’s love – not even death or demons! God won’t lose us; he won’t forget us; he won’t abandon us in death. God confirms his promise of love in Hebrews 13:5. It tells us to be satisfied with what we have. God said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”
With the grip of death in mind, I share with you my last day with my dad who died of cancer in September 2010. It was here where that our faiths were challenged. I tried to apply Biblical principles with my dad who I knew would die soon. I was able to confidently tell him he would go to Heaven (Paradise) when he died and would assume some form of a body. At some point down the road he’d be given a glorified body (an eternal physical body at the time of the rapture). I explained it to him the same way I explain it to you… through mountains of research. In the fog that he was in, I gave him a simple opportunity - the same one I give to you. It is the opportunity to meet up once again with our loved ones.
MY LAST DAY WITH DAD (SEPTEMBER 26, 2010)
What follows is a description of events as my dad died. My father died on September 26, 2010. He had battled cancer of the liver, lymph nodes, and esophagus. He spent the last 2 ½ weeks of his life in a Hospice. The cancer in the esophagus made it impossible for him to swallow. The result was he starved to death (while given lots of pain medication).
As I was grieving the death of my dad, I realized that you never know how much you believe in something until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death. It is easy to stay strong in the midst of something you’ve done or experienced before. But suppose you are dangling by a rope over a huge precipice. Where would your faith be then? Wouldn’t you then discover how much you really trusted the rope? Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief. Q66
Over the last month I was present with my dad in a number of ways. We held hands. I was able to get him to laugh. I massaged the top of his head with a warm cloth. I fed him ginger ale through a straw. We literally created a whole new relationship. In fact, the impact of being with him in these last days is how I will remember him. I was there until his last breaths at the hospice.
As a care receiver, he may be the softest and sweetest man I have ever seen. He was the favorite of the nurses. Jesus encourages us to be humble. My dad’s unpretentiousness in life was recently noted by the President of Davis & Elkins College, Buck Smith. On the first page of the college’s web site, Smith wrote, “Bill Robbins was the most reluctant to have his own name included on any of the buildings.” His humility showed up in his last days. Despite his pain and discomfort, he was always more concerned with the nurses caring for him. Matthew 18:4 tells us “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
My dad died surrendered, humbly, and ready to meet the Lord. A few people at his bedside remarked that near the end my dad said: "I see them. They're coming." I believe that was is a reference to angels.
Luke 16:22 says, “So the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom.” (Abrahams’s Bosom is the place of the departed righteous ones prior to Jesus’ death).
Mark 13:26-27 says, "The Lord will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven."
Angels are considered to be God’s messengers. The word “angel” means “messenger. Hebrews 1:14 says, "Therefore, angels are only servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation."
About a week before my dad died, I read him the following excerpt. I read it to him because pain and suffering by itself seems to have no meaning. It seems so purposeless. The passage refers to the acceptance of suffering. It reads as follows:
There are some people whom God calls to a special kind of suffering. Trials are given so they might develop the faith that is so precious to Christ. Their faithfulness is of great reward. 1 Peter 1:7 says, “These trials will show that their faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed.” In other words, our perseverance through suffering will by itself create its own Heavenly reward.
Last Saturday night (Sep 25; 12 hours before dad died) my sons, Jack and Billy, stood at the foot of dad’s bed. I said to my dad, “Jack and Billy love you.” My dad struggled with the words but an understandable “I love them” eked out. These were his last words.
He was deteriorating at a pace where all he could do was surrender. I could see it. My dad knew it. As he was slipping, I took the time to speak in his ears what were probably the last words he would ever discernibly hear. These were words I felt he should hear as a Christian man approaching his earthly death. This was no time to worry about sounding strange or looking silly. Time was precious. My dad was never one to “talk God” so it was hard to discern exactly how he sat before the Lord. I felt urgency. In a certain sense, I felt what I had to say was for all the marbles. I said.
- “Dad, let Jesus have you. Let him take you”
- “Dad, Jesus wants you to let go.”
- “Soon you will be with Grandpa and Grandma.”
- “Your sons are right behind you.”
As I said, these words were the last my dad heard while alive and cognizant. My dad didn’t fight what I was saying. I felt secure after that. He had laid down his sword. He was ready. For the Christian, death is no longer feared. In our human weakness we still look at death as an ominous foe, but God has given us a specific promise that whatever death brings, it will not separate us from Him. In the book of Romans the apostle Paul gives us assurance. Romans 8:38-39 says, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow…”
Fortunately we do have the reliable testimony of one man, Jesus, who went through death and was raised back to life. Through the writers of the New Testament, Jesus has told us what death is like and what we can expect after we die. The Bible doesn’t come to us with long philosophical discussions about death… nor is it a book of wishful dreams either. It is God’s Word, and it was written so we can say, ‘I know what lies beyond death. I don’t know everything because God hasn’t told us everything, but what God has said, I can trust.’
Psalm 33:11 tells us “God’s plan lasts forever; his purposes last eternally,” Unfortunately some of us only think about death and eternity mainly at funerals, and it’s often in a maudlin and sentimental way. We aren’t really thinking about the Bible and its promises. Some consider it morbid to think about death, but actually it’s unhealthy to live in denial of death. Only a fool would go through life unprepared for what we know is to happen. We need to think more of eternity, not less. Our life here is preparation for the next. Hebrews 13:14 informs us that “This world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”
So I ask that we leave here today not just as a motley group of people... but as brothers and sisters… ready to lead lives that are pleasing to not just my dad, but more importantly, the Lord. Let our walks be humble and our actions be kind. Let our visions be faith filled. Let’s do this for dad.” In Jesus’ Name… Amen”
Along with the fear of death, God promises to remove the sting of death. Paul exclaims in 1 Corinthians 15:55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The ability of death to inflict permanent pain was removed by Jesus’ victory over death. It can’t terrorize us anymore. Death for us is falling asleep in the arms of Jesus; it is setting sail to a place called home.
The promises God gives to his children are not just dry declarations to be repeated over and over at the time of death. His Word is not just ink on paper. Along with the clear promises we read in the Bible, we also have the inner witness of the Holy Spirit who brings assurance to our hearts that what God declares in the Word is true. It’s as though God proclaims an “amen” on scripture. Romans 8:16 says “For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” 1 John 2:20 says, “The Holy One has given you his Spirit, and all of you know the truth.”
WARNING I need to add that God’s promises are only for those who claim Jesus Christ as their Savior. If you don’t know Christ, if you have never personally trusted him, you ought to be terrified of death. You will face death alone, and you will face eternity separated from Christ. But the good news is you don’t have to live in fear of death. God offers you eternal life if you, in faith, receive Christ as your Savior. He died on the cross for you; he rose again in victory for you. He will change you and cleanse you from sin at this moment if you will accept his grace and forgiveness. (Connelly 30-33)
WHAT ABOUT DOUBTS? Having doubts is very common. In fact, it's almost impossible to avoid them! Every believer goes through issues at some time that may bring up doubts. Regarding our emotions, they are God-given and can be enjoyed. So we don't deny them. However, when it comes to answering our deepest questions, we must learn not to let our emotions teach us what is true. So when we deal with doubts and uncertainties, we should never rely on our positive or negative emotions either one way or the other. Once we've decided in favor of Christianity it is imperative to keep moving ahead even if we become confused. Scripture is clear that we’ll be seen by what’s in our hearts. Hopefully, despite our doubts and emotions, by God's grace, we’ll all be on the right path. http://www.garyhabermas.com/qa/qa_index.htm
WANTING HEAVEN C.S. Lewis writes, “Most of us find it very difficult to want Heaven at all – except in so far as ‘Heaven’ means meeting again with our old friends who have died.” One reason for this difficulty is we have not been trained; our whole education fixes our minds on this world. Thoughts focused on secular activities sap us of our yearning for Heaven. These thoughts are hard to avoid. They can be so subtle… but oh so real!
Perhaps we need to consider that if we want more out of life we should focus more on Heaven. History backs this notion. C.S. Lewis states, “If you read history, you will find that Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought about the next.” The Apostles themselves, those involved with the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, and the English evangelicals who abolished the slave trade… all of these men left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.
“Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth thrown in – aim at
Earth and you will get neither.”
Our focus on Heaven allows us to take comfort. In John 16:33 Jesus says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Thus if you are a Christian suffering with great pains and losses, know that Jesus has asked us to take his words at heart. Allow our imaginations to fly upon the truths of the scriptures. Our new home is getting readied and our moving day waits. Our dark days of winter are ready to be transformed into spring. Soon we will be home. In the meantime we can meditate upon the fruits of Heaven.
The author Paul was ahead of his time when he mused about the fruits of Heaven. In Philippians 1:21-23 he said, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.”
If you read history, you will find that Christians who did the most for
the present world were just those who thought about the next.
CHOOSE NOW The best time to make our decision for Jesus is now. We could die tomorrow and lose our chance at Heaven. James 4:14 says, “Why, you don’t even know what is going to happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” It is of paramount importance that we make sure we are going to Heaven and will not be separated from God. Don’t procrastinate. 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 makes a plea, “we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says, ‘at just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.’ Indeed, the right time is now. Today is the day of salvation.”
Don’t listen to the voice that whispers, “There’s no hurry.”
Don’t listen to the voice that whispers, “There’s no hurry. I can always think about this later.” This is not God’s voice. God says:
CAUTION Christ offers each of us the gift of forgiveness and eternal life. The price has been paid by Jesus. But just because the offer is made doesn’t make it ours. To have it, we must choose to accept it. Hopefully you have had enough information so far to make a decision. Perhaps you need to read further. Either way, if you haven’t already done so, I implore you to say “yes” to the most amazing gift there could be.
The aim of this book is to introduce you to Christ and his message
so you can safely and gladly say “Yes” to Jesus’ offer
LAST DAYS In terms of a timeline, it is important to know where we stand. The time between Christ’s first appearance on earth (birth) and the rapture (where believers are swept upward; to be explained later) is considered to be the “last days.” It is also called the “church age.” During this time doubters will say that Jesus is never coming back. But Peter refutes their argument below by explaining God’s mastery over time. We, like Peter, live in the “last days.” We must do the work to which God has called us and believe that he will return as he promised. 2 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires.” They will say, ‘What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again?’”
THE NEW HEAVEN and THE NEW EARTH This topic will be discussed later in the book as well, but I wanted to touch on it now. The New Heaven and the New Earth refer to the eternal Heaven that ultimately awaits us. The following scripture gives a “taste” of Heaven. In Revelation 21:1-3, the author John says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared… And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem (Heaven), coming down from God out of heaven… I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
New Jerusalem / New Earth are references to Eternal Heaven
This will all come to pass here on a new, remade Earth
For the various names of Heaven, please see Appendix A.
WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?
Christians are people who put their faith and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, including His death on the cross as payment for sins of man. John 1:12 tells us, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Those who accept Christ are saved (having been awarded salvation). Salvation concerns an eternal, spiritual deliverance. Those who are saved are protected from God’s wrath. They are saved from God’s judgment of sin and their eternal destiny is Heaven and not hell.
There are different thoughts on different aspects of Christianity. I cover these next.
CAN WE LOSE OUR SALVATION? A view (perhaps a liberal one) tells us that our initial faith in Christ seals us to Him and the hereafter. Once eternity is promised it cannot be taken away. Jesus does not renege on His promises. This view assumes Jesus does everything for us. We cannot lose our salvation. This makes sense to the extent that when one considers one can’t earn (work for) their salvation, then how can one work to nullify it? The problem with this view is it fails to include many scriptures that stand in contrast to it.
A more conservative school of thought suggests that salvation cannot be lost, as in losing your car keys, but it can be left, as in walking away from it. It is important to remember that the one sin that’s listed as the unpardonable sin is that of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells the story of one man, a servant, who tempted his fate. He walked away from God. He said, “My master delays His coming; therefore, I will turn from living a godly life.” When the master returned unexpectedly, the servant was banished for his choice.
In another passage, Jesus said, “You have left your first love,” when speaking to the church in Ephesus Revelation 2:4-5 says, “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first. Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.” The church in Ephesus is clearly warned that if they don’t repent the penalty will be the church’s removal.
James 5:19-20 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.” This is an interesting verse in that it clearly demonstrates that one is able to walk away from the truth (and hence their salvation)… but such a person is also able to be brought back into the fold. However, if they were to continue to stand against God (blasphemy) – they are lost for good. If anything, these scriptures, and many more, reinforce the fact that we have certain responsibilities. We should never turn from what we know to be right. Jesus encouraged His followers to be watchful, prepared, and ready for His return. Are we watchful? Are we prepared? Are we ready? (See Matthew 24:45-51; Luke 21:34.)
Scripture tells us that we have certain responsibilities as Christians.
Luke 21:34-36 says, “Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.” “That day” refers to the rapture where all believers are swept up in the air. The “coming horrors” could be the Tribulation which follows the rapture, or it could reflect in a more general way the manner in which sin pervades the earth.
Matthew 24:48-51 talks about what the outcome will be if a servant turns his attention away from the Lord and partakes in evil activities. “But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Weeping and Gnashing of teeth refers to hell.
One should also consider those passages that deal with people who have never fully surrendered to Christ. As a result, they slip away. They heard the gospel, but never fully embraced it and never turned from their sins; they only had “intellectual” knowledge of salvation.
It is mistake to think that we can’t lose our salvation.
WAS A PERSON SAVED TO BEGIN WITH? According to this view, the real question isn’t, “Can a person lose their salvation?” but, “Was the person really saved to begin with?” Titus 1:16 couldn’t be clearer. It says, “But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good.” This verse gives strong evidence that being saved entails much more than mechanically speaking the “right words.”
James 2:13-14 says, “There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others… What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?” These verses clearly suggest that faith without accompanying actions is not a saving kind of faith.
James 2:15-18 gets more specific. It says, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”- but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see… faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
I John 2:19 also refers to people who were never saved to begin with. It says “These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us.”
Many people say that they know God, but deny Him by their lifestyle. The important question is not, “Can I lose my salvation,” but, “What is the condition of my heart—have I truly repented and trusted in Christ as my Lord and Savior, or do I trust religion and tradition to buffer me?” This may be why Paul said in II Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourself as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” Our actions do reveal a great deal about our relationship with Christ. A.W. Tozer said: “When people find that after being in the church for years they are not making much progress, they ought to examine themselves and wonder whether they have been truly converted.” He added: “True conversion means radical repentance, a changed life, conscious forgiveness of sin, and a spiritual rebirth.” Has your heart become so hardened as to reject Jesus Christ? If so, change that.
I’m aware that I am driving a lot of scriptures your way, but it’s better to get a full and rounded picture than one that’s shallow. If current statistics hold true, many in our postmodern culture will embrace a glamorized Christianity and be led astray. Unfortunately, difficult truths are often compromised, watered-down, or avoided altogether in the hope of not offending, securing an audience, and building a “mega-ministry.” As a result…
The church is a mile wide but only an inch deep
~ Judgment is never mentioned ~ Repentance is never sought
~ Sin is often excused ~ Lives are not radically changed.
This leaves people confused and deceived because they believe in a “cross-less” Christianity that bears no resemblance to Jesus’ sobering call to repentance–to convince the world of the truth of Christianity, it must first be convinced of sin. Life is a battleground, not a playground.
Is listening to Joel Osteen radically changing your life or is it just a one hour “feel good.” My goal in this book is not to be politically correct, seeker-sensitive, or user friendly, but to speak the truth in love. II Corinthians 5:17 states, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Your past is forgiven, your present secure, and your future certain. Through Christ, you are a brand new person. Though the road ahead may be uncertain at times, the solid ground beneath will never shift. http://westsidechristianfellowship.org/articles/can-i-lose-my-salvation/ Peter Shane
HOSPITAL FOR SINNERS The Christian church is not a society of integrated personalities, or of philosophies, or of mystics, or even “good” people. Charles Clayton writes that it’s a society of broken personalities; of troubled men and women who know they have room to grow. The Christian church is a society of sinners. It is one of few societies in the world (such as 12 step groups) in which memberships are based on being unworthy to join.
It was at Antioch that believers of Christ were called “Christ ones” or Christians. The question arises: How did they live a Christian life and what makes us a Christian today? Billy Graham claims a Christian is a person who has made a decision accepting Christ as savior and Lord. Often this means having a personal encounter with Christ… but more often than not it is a “garden variety awakening” that takes place over time. The important thing is for one to make a choice. It is choosing to accept Jesus into our heart. (1957 Crusade at Madison Square Garden)
Many potential Christians are “toe dippers.” They have toyed with the idea of accepting Christ into their hearts but they never have. Salvation is a supernatural process. The Gospel presentation is managed by the Holy Spirit. In John 16: 7, Jesus says, “But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate(or Comforter, or Holy Spirit, or Encourager, or Counsel) won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. In John 16:13 Jesus adds, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.”
As Christians we will be drawn to repent (re-think).
Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.
God instructs us to love the Lord and love each other. Mark 12:30-31 says, “The most important commandment is this… The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”
A believer’s growth as a Christian will include inevitable changes. Jesus said “by their fruits shall thee know them.” Matthew 7:16 tells us “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act.” Galatians 5:22 says, “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” If a change hasn’t taken place we may be living in a fool’s paradise. Our faith should be worn on our sleeves.
Living a life of faith challenges us in that we may be asked to deny our selfish impulses. Failure to do so can lead to “backsliding.” As an example, many of us like to receive praise when we give generously. Yet the Bible asks us to give in secret. As another (more advanced) example, we are to be responsible for our thought life. This means we are not only to avoid lusting after another, but we are asked to not hang on to the thought of lust. Fortunately no one is expected to be perfect and as mentioned, all sincere believers do make it to Heaven.
It is interesting to note that Ed West, the man who first spotted me along I-95 in North Carolina, was in a period of backsliding. He was actively praying for God to send him someone to help. He felt his Christian walk needed some fuel. Then I showed up. As you may have read, he and others took care of me for the week.
Ed West and Deral Hedgepeth (the man who towed me) acted in direct opposition to the nefarious “name it and claim it” theology of some questionable preachers. Rather than “name and claim,”… they “gave and forgot!” There was no reasonable expectation that they’d ever receive a penny for their Christ-like actions. I live 500 miles away. Yet God had different designs. We must remember that God’s ways are greater than our ways. God does not always reciprocate in the linear fashion that he did with Ed and Deral. But when He does it sure is heart- warming!
Ed and Deral chose to “take up his cross” and follow Jesus. It has been said that wisdom is knowing what to do and virtue is actually doing it. Ed and Deral acted virtuously. Based on their experience with me and others, they have found a Christian life that they could have never envisioned given their exploits as youths. Most people aren’t willing to stick their necks out the way they did. Many settle for creature comforts, the attitudes of secular society, and decide to play it safe. As Christians, Ed and Deral stuck their necks out for me and I am changed because of it. Philippians 1:11 says, “May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ - for this will bring much glory and praise to God.”
Are you a committed? Or are you holding back as a “toe-dipper?
DOES CHRIST COVER THE SINS OF EVERYONE? One theological school of thinking (a liberal one) asserts that once we put our faith in Christ we are heaven-bound and there is nothing to stand in the way of this. Christ covers all sins – both for believers and unbelievers. Another school (School 2, a more conservative school) is the more widely accepted school in terms of the relationships between us, Jesus, and sins. Though a few verses seem to support the more liberal school (below), there appears to be more evidence for School 2 which considers the necessity of repentance.
School 1 (Liberal) This school of thinking affirms that all sins have been paid for, not just for believers but for unbelievers as well. They believe this is what grace is all about. 2 Corinthians 5:19 says, “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.” This seemingly would imply all people… both believers and nonbelievers.
I John 2:2 says, “He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” This verse tells us that all sins have been paid for and nobody, including unbelievers, will stand before God for their sins. They will stand before God for their belief or unbelief – but not for their sins. Their sins are not reckoned to their accounts but to the account of Jesus. Heaven is a matter of accepting Jesus’ gift.
When people use qualifiers such as “fully” and “completely” and “wholly” they are watering down Christ’s sacrifice and scaring away newcomers who feel that they fall desperately short of this “perfect ideal.” Such language implies that it’s up to us to plug in the gap that Jesus filled. We can’t possibly “fully” do this no matter how hard we try. We need to know that His sacrifice was complete. The liberal school tells us that this is a fundamental aspect of salvation that must be grasped. We cannot “perfectly and fully” accept Christ. Even the most devout Christians have not “wholly” put their belief in Him or have orchestrated the “perfect walk.” Nobody can reach the perfect ideal. We are humans and can’t get to Heaven based on our actions alone or by “trying” to perfectly believe.
Such language can be considered the beginning of a slippery slope to a “salvation by works” model. Some may think that using such language is part of the “devil’s lair!” By setting up an impossible standard, Satan can take pleasure in seeing us fall short. He wins when we give up.
SCHOOL 2 (Conservative) This school puts more burden on us. It is not “one and done” (just accept Jesus) like the liberal school. There are a number of verses that support the conservative school. Verses contrasting the liberal school are listed below. It appears that the more conservative school possesses the more widely accepted views regarding the relationship between God and sin.
We can start with a very simple one. Luke 13:3 says, “But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Mathew 7:14 (New King James) Becausenarrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to (eternal) life, and there are few who find it. This indicates that the road is not the broad, open highway that the first school indicates. which indicates that Jesus has removed sins from everyone. It clearly states that few find eternal life. This would not be the case if School One were correct if Jesus granted salvation like He was handing out free money.
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. If sin is no longer an issue (School 1; liberal), then why was it prohibiting them from receiving the Holy Spirit? Here it clearly tells us that we need to repent and be baptized to receive the Holy Spirit.
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. Repentance is up to us – it will not happen for us. It appears that one would need to repent and be converted for their sins to be blotted out.
Acts 7:59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Stephen’s last words were a plea to God to not hold the sins of the “stoners” against them. It would seem futile for a man's dying breath to be wasted on asking for forgiveness for his persecutors if sin is no longer an issue!
John 16:8-9 And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. Here, John talks about the coming judgment and the world’s sin of refusing to believe in Jesus.
John 3:18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” If nonbelievers stand condemned already, then this contradicts Christ having taken away the sins of both believers and nonbelievers (liberal school).
We must remember that our purpose is not to accumulate treasures here on earth “where dust and moth doth corrupt.” We never really own anything during our brief stay on earth anyway. Everything is loaned from God. Proverbs 13:7 (Message) says, “A pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life.” Job 8:9 says, “For we were born but yesterday and know nothing. Our days on earth are as fleeting as a shadow.” Our choices on earth are ultimately meaningless if we fail to choose Jesus as our Savior. Our relationship with Him on earth will determine our eternal destiny. If we reject His love, forgiveness, and salvation we will spend eternity apart from God. The choice is ours.
2 Corinthians 5:20 says we are “Christ’s ambassadors.” Sadly, many mature Christians have strayed from their King and His kingdom. They have foolishly concluded that since they live on earth that it must be their home. It is not. In 1 Peter 2:11, Peter says, “Dear friends, I warn you as ‘temporary residents and foreigners’ to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.”
In the entire universe only two of God’s creations fail to bring glory to Him,
Fallen angels (demons) and fallen people (unbelievers)
All sin, at its root, is failing to give glory to God. It is loving something more than God. Refusing to give glory to God is prideful rebellion. It is sin that caused Satan’s fall and sadly, too many people as well. Living for God’s glory stands as the greatest achievement we can accomplish. Isaiah 43:7 says, “They are my own people, and I created them to bring me glory.” In John 14:7, Jesus told the Father, “I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to do.” Jesus honored God by fulfilling His purpose on earth. 2 John 1:6 tells us “Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another.”
We honor God the same way Jesus did – by obedience
Love means doing what God has commanded us,
and he has commanded us to love one another.
In Colossians 2:6 Paul says, “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus, so walk in him.” As we move along our Christian path, we bring God glory by worshipping Him and loving our fellow man. We honor Him by trying our best to be like Christ, by using our gifts, and through evangelizing. Once we know truth we are drawn to share it with others. This is a great privilege – introducing others to Jesus and preparing them for their eternal destiny. No earthly gift comes close. Introducing someone to Christ - and ultimately Heaven - is singularly the best thing we could do for our fellow man. This is the purpose of this book and this is why I can confidently affirm my promises in the beginning.
HUMAN CONDITION We were made to have meaning. In fact, people have been described as “meaning making” machines. Animals don’t possess the ability to conjure meaning - only humans. Knowing our Christian purpose gives meaning to our lives. When life has meaning, one can bear almost anything; without it, little is bearable. Consider what we’d do to save our children from danger. We’d do what we can because they mean so much. Isaiah struggled with the human condition. He struggled with his life’s purpose and meaning. Isaiah spoke both of his frustrations and his ultimate resolution with God. Isaiah 49:4 says, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.”
WHAT ABOUT BAPTISM?
A. There are several New Testament verses that exhort us to be baptized:
Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved.
Acts 2:38 Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.
Acts 22:16 Be baptized and wash away your sins.
I Peter 3:21 Baptism now saves us.
Everyone who is baptized must first understand the gospel well enough to believe it. It was reported that 3,000 people were added to the church as a result of what Peter taught.
John 6:44-45 For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up. As it is written in the Scriptures, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. This would include baptism.
Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Every creature who is baptized must first believe the gospel which they have been taught. Baptism is only for those who are capable of hearing and believing the gospel. No one is included in the command if they cannot first hear, understand, and believe the gospel.
Mark 16:15-16 And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.”
Galatians 3:26-27 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.
Acts 8:12 But now the people believed Philip’s message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, many men and women were baptized.
Acts 18:8 Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.
Mark 1:4-5 This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River.
When the people of Samaria gave heed to the gospel that was preached, both men and women were baptized. When were they baptized? They were baptized when they believed, not before. They should not be baptized until they do believe. In all Biblical examples of baptism, people were baptized only when they personally had full faith, based on their own understanding of the gospel. No one was baptized on the basis of someone else's faith, such as their parents. No one else can believe for us, just like no one can be baptized for us.
To be saved, one must believe in his heart and confess Christ with his mouth. Only an adult who understands can do this. The candidate for baptism must make an understandable statement, so that the one who does the baptizing knows they are baptizing someone who has faith.
Churches that baptize babies often have a practice called "confirmation." People are baptized as babies, but later when they get old enough to understand and make their own choice about serving God, they are taught and are asked to publicly "confirm" their faith and their desire to live for God. The very existence of such a practice is an admission that the child did not understand, believe, and repent before he was baptized.
The paragraph below contains an effective prayer of faith for a new Christian. The Book of Romans asks that we speak it. Allow the prayer to sink into your heart and say it out loud in accordance with Romans 10:9 which tells us “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Dear God, I know that Jesus died for me. I confess that Jesus is Lord and I confess my sins to you today. I repent (re-think) of my sins. I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. I believe that Jesus is alive and today I trust in Him. I put my faith in Him and I receive Him into my heart.
Praying this prayer will, according to scripture, add your name to the Lamb’s book of life (a list of those going to Heaven).
We have now learned what the Bible asks of us before we can be baptized. God is no respecter of persons, so the plan is the same for everyone. Before anyone can be baptized, he must hear and understand the gospel, believe it, repent of sins, and confess Christ.
SHOULD INFANTS BE BAPTIZED? The commentary above indicates that babies should not be baptized because they aren’t capable of an authentic belief in Jesus and they certainly don’t understand the Gospel. But very interestingly, there are scriptures that indicate they should be baptized. The argument for baptizing babies is listed below. I was wary of this argument, but one I studied it, I found the viewpoint compelling.
Baptizing babies makes more sense when one looks at the idea of God’s covenant. For 2,000 years from the time of Abraham to the coming of Christ, God showed his people that he wanted their babies to be in covenant with him. The way to do it was simple: God would give His people the sign of the covenant. In the Old Testament the sign of entering God’s covenant was circumcision. Christ changed it to baptism in the New Testament. Nowhere did Christ announce that babies would be exempt from the covenant. Blessings for the children is captured in the following verses. (Rome Sweet Rome; Scott and Kimberly Hahn; pgs 15-16; 1993 Ignatius Press)
Matthew 19:13-15 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.
Acts 2:38-39 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
IS BAPTISM ITSELF ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY? Besides the many scriptures regarding baptism, the Bible itself demonstrates that baptism isn’t entirely necessary for salvation. Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be in Paradise. Obviously the thief had no chance of being baptized. Baptism is largely ceremonial and can be seen as an advertisement to unbelievers to choose Christ for themselves.
There are some verses that seem to indicate baptism as a necessary requirement for salvation. These have been listed. However, since the Bible lists so many verses that indicate a willingness to believe, I do not think that baptism is a necessity for a Christian to be saved. Scripture needs to be taken as a whole.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of (the knowledge of) the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.
John 3:16 For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
What is critical to know is that in Bible times, a person who converted from one religion to another was often baptized to identify conversion. Baptism was the means of making a decision public. Those who refused to be baptized were saying they did not truly believe. So, in the minds of the apostles and early disciples, the idea of an un-baptized believer was unheard of. When a person claimed to believe in Christ, yet was ashamed to proclaim his faith in public, it indicated that he did not have true faith. However, we don’t look at baptism in the same way in current times.
Technically speaking, requiring anything in addition to faith in Jesus Christ for salvation can be considered a works-based salvation. As I will discuss in the chapter entitled “ARE WE SAVED BY FAITH OR BY OUR WORKS?”… works do play a part in confirming our faith and our good deeds on earth will ultimately be judged. To add anything to the gospel is to say that Jesus' death on the cross was insufficient to purchase our salvation. To say we must be baptized in order to be saved is to say we must add our own good works and obedience to Christ's death in order to make it sufficient for salvation. Jesus' death alone paid for our sins. Jesus' payment for our sins is appropriated to our “account” by faith alone. Therefore baptism is a key step of obedience after salvation but can’t be a requirement for salvation. On balance, it does not seem to be a game-changer.
Romans 5:1 Since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
THE HEART OF THE CHRISTIAN ETHIC The heart of the Christian ethic is the gospel. Only those who have been transformed from within (Titus 3:6-7) and who have been indwelt by the spirit of God (Romans 8:13-14) are able to exhibit genuine holiness (Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Peter1:16). Christianity is not primarily concerned with external behavior modification, but with a change of the heart that subsequently manifests itself in a changed life (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). A true Christian ethic, then, is not possible without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.
Unless the inner man is washed first, external morality and religious observances are only a superficial façade. Jesus rebuked the hypocrites of his Day with these words: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead man’s bones and uncleanness” (Mathew 23:27). Christ was not saying behavior is unimportant, but from God’s perspective, the heart is what matters most (1 Samuel 16:7; Mark 12:30-31).
Titus 3:6-7 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.
Romans 8:13-14 For if you live by its (sin) dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature,you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are childrenof God.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these this.
1 Peter1:16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”
1 Samuel 16:7 I (the Lord speaking to Samuel) don’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearances, but I (the Lord) look at the heart.”
Mark 12:30-31 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”No other commandment is greater than these.
Of course, a heart that has been truly transformed by God will respond in love to His Son, Jesus Christ (John 8:42). And those who love Jesus Christ will eagerly desire to follow and obey His commands (John 14:15), as found in His Word (Colossians 3:16). A truly Christian ethic, then, eagerly affirms and applies the moral instructions found in the Bible. But it doesn’t do so in an attempt to legalistically earn salvation (Isaiah 64:6). Rather, having received salvation as the free gift of God through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9), it readily obeys out of a heart of love.
John 8:42 Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but He sent me.”
John 14:15 If you love me, obey my commandments.
Isaiah 64:6 We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. This is an often quoted verse because it illustrates how helpless we are without our saving faith in Jesus. We can never be “good enough.” We need Christ’s help.
TRUST VS FAITH There is a difference between initial faith in Christ and the subsequent faith that one uses to live the Christian way of life. There is also a difference between faith and trust. Exercising your faith does not necessarily bring results that are predictable and foolproof. Knowing with certainty is trust. Believing a chair will hold you brings a measure of trust because you have memories of it holding you. This is based on physical properties and natural laws. Faith is different.
God cannot be captured in this way. Faith comes by hearing the word of God. As my dad was dying from cancer, he had no imaginary chair to sit in. He had faith in Jesus and Heaven… but he didn’t know exactly how that would look. He had God and what that represented. Trusting this notion is faith.
My father knows now what the after-life experience is. As a Christian, the Bible tells us he’s in Heaven. Unfortunately, all the prayers we make to Jesus while on Earth aren’t answered to our satisfaction. We pray for things on earth and sometimes we don’t get them. Consider the Tuscon, Arizona shootings (Rep. Gabbie Gifford). Some survived. All were prayed for but some didn’t make it. One of those lost was a nine-year old girl. Being a child, I believe she is in Heaven. Though all our prayers aren’t answered on earth, I believe they are ultimately answered in Heaven.
I believe Heaven is the place where all our prayers are answered.
Health, longevity, peace, joy, and being with loved ones are all present.
Romans 6:13 says, “Give your selves to God… Surrender your whole being to Him to be used for righteous purposes.” Offering ourselves to God is what worship is all about. The act of surrender can be called many things: consecration, making Jesus our Lord, taking up our cross, dying to the self, or yielding to the Spirit. Call it what you may – just know that God wants all of you. Surrender becomes easier the more we know how much God loves us. Fear keeps us stuck; love frees us. Mark 12:30 says, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” God’s best soldiers are the “surrendered”ones and not the prideful ones. If you want to take the first step in surrendering – try humility. The Lord loves a humble heart. James 4:7 says, “So humble your selves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
FAMILY Besides the family of believers we have here on earth, there are many scriptures that point to familial ties in Heaven. The extended church becomes our eternal, spiritual family in Heaven. Our shared bond is faith in Jesus. Scriptural references are made to…
~ God as our Father ~ We as his children
~ Our fellow Christians as brothers and sisters ~ Inheritance in Heaven
Galatians 3:26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Matthew 12:50 Jesus pointed out “One who does my Father’s will in heaven is my brother and sister.”
Galatians 6:10 Therefore, whenever we (His children) have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.
John 14:2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home
Ephesians 2:19 You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.
Like a kindly father, the Lord is generous with His children. We are part of His family. The New Testament talks much about our “inheritance” from our Father.
Ephesians 1:18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
1 Peter 1:4 We have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. (Warren 33-140)
In Matthew 25:40, says, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” Self-importance, smugness, arrogance, and stubborn pride destroy relationships faster than anything else. Such traits also leave us hopelessly alone. After all, how can we feel a part of a group when we consider ourselves above them all? It’s lonely at the top! Humility is the salve that holds relationships together. Romans 12:16 tells us to “… clothe yourself in humility towards each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!”
Relationships are what life is all about – our relationships with our Father in Heaven and our fellow man on earth. Wisdom is realizing the importance of this. Spiritual maturity is governed by how we treat others on earth. In Heaven God won’t be concerned with our ambitions and status. Instead our Father will evaluate us based on how we treated others, especially those in need. He will evaluate us on how well we loved. Not all believers will be in the same place in Heaven. Rewards will be given out based on a number of faith-filled criteria. This will be explained more in the “Heaven’s Rewards” chapter. We should all desire for the Lord to say to us: “Well done O’ good and faithful servant.”