Salvation and eternal life.
What and where is Heaven, and how do I get there from here?
I am constantly clarifing statements made on this page as the Lord impresses me so please come back often.
So, if you are a Christian have you ever sat down and really thought about what heaven will be like? If you are not a Christian and you have often wondered what all this talk about heaven is about please, both of you please read on. Let's dig into both of these subjects some.
First before we get started. It is my opinion that many people, including Christians, really don't have an idea of what "heaven" is, and if questioned by a non-Christian they can not give a reasonable answer to the question. So what and where is Heaven? To be quite honest I can not fully grasp just what the Lord has in store for us either, but I am sure that its not going to be sitting around on some cloud strumming a harp. Some of my personal thoughts on this are that heaven will be a dwelling beyond our dreams. Scripture clearly teaches us that heaven will be for us to worship the Lord. I also believe that heaven will be the fulfillment of what the earth was created to be all the way back to the Garden of Eden. I believe that animals will co-exist with us after all God did bring all the animals to Adam to name, and scripture says the lion shall lie down with the lamb. I also believe that there will be many forms of work and recreation for us to interact with one another. And I believe that it may be possible for us to travel all over the "New Earth" and see all the wonders that was created for us.
For starters lets take a look at Rev 21:1-4
1) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2) I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Based upon this I believe that God is going to create the eternal "Heaven" right here on earth. Notice that scripture tells us that the first heaven and earth has passed away which is consistant with 2 Peter 3:10;
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
Another important element to the first passage is from John 14:2
In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
This tells me that Jesus is going to prepare a place in "heaven" for us so that we can have "eternal life" with him. I also believe that it tells us that the "new heaven" will actually be right here on a "new earth" not some mythical place in outer space as previously stated. Now its up to us to figure out how to get there. However I also belive that God made it pretty clear and easy on what is required on our part to have eternal life. I also believe that many Christian denominations and individual fellowships can do a pretty good job of screwing up what it takes to be a "Christian", to have "Eternal life" or as most say "go to Heaven".
OK Mike ! ! ! then how do I get to go to heaven since you're so darn smart?
The first thing you the reader needs to understand is that no person, preacher, pastor, priest, rabii, church, denomination, religion, creed, or some repeat after me polly parrot prayer nor anything or anyone else can "save" you from yours, or my sins. Having your name on a church role from years ago, or in the back of your grandmothers table bible won't do it for you. We, you and I, are solely responsible for our own salvation. Just because your parents are Christians and your grandfather was a "hell, fire & brimstone" Baptist preacher does not make you a Christian either. Only the blood sacrifice of Christ on the cross can accomplish that for you. Make no mistake about this. Just because you join some church does NOT make you a Christian any more than joining the AAA makes you an automobile. Lets examine some other passages from scripture.
22) This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24) and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25) God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished, 26) he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
19) I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20) When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21) What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22) But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
9) That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10) For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
The simplest example of someone in scripture being told by Jesus that they would live eternally with him is recorded in Luke 23:39-43
39) One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 40) But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41) We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." 42) Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43) Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
Lets evaluate this passage that we commonly refer to as "the thief on the cross". The thief only did three things and Jesus told him "today you will be with me in paradise" or meaning you will have eternal life. The thief;
A = Admitted that he was a sinner/criminal (we are punished justly)
B = Believed in his heart that Jesus is the Christ and
C = Confessed (remember me ...) with his mouth the same.
He didn't do anything else, he wasn't baptized, didn't speak in tongues, didn't walk the aisle, didn't join the church, never tithed, sang in the choir, or any number of what I think are ridiculous requirements put onto people by "religeous denominatons". He did nothing but just Admit / Believe / Confess.
Then why do some preach and teach otherwise? Sometimes I think that many Christian denominations are so preoccupied with putting their label on top of someone else's label all in the name of their denomination that they have forgotten what scripture teaches. This does not mean that they are "bad" people, they have just gotten caught up in what the denomination says and not what the bible says. I also suspect that many denominations and fellowships get the concept of Transformation" confused as being essential for "Salvation". What the thief did was enter into salvation. Because of his emminent death he was not afforded the opportunity to enter into transformation.
So what is transformation?
I contend that transformation is the "act of becoming a Christian". You become a Christian by simply admitting you are a sinner, believing in your heart that Jesus died on the cross for both yours and my sins, and confessing that either publicly or prayerfully to him. If you do nothing else with your life you will spend eternity with Christ. However, "becoming a Christian" is more than salvation in that in transformation you learn to "walk as Christ walked". I would further contend that many if not most Christian denominations put the cart before the donkey that in order to be a "Christian" you must do any number of "rites / sacrements / baptism / etc" that the denomination or fellowship prescribes as necessary in order to be saved. However we can see from the above referenced verses that this is really not the case.
Now please do not misunderstand, the act of baptism and many other "spiritual activities" after one has come to a saving knowledge of Christ are a vital part of the transformation process and very important to our growth in and walk with Christ but they are not essensial to salvation. If they were then the thief could not spend eternity with Christ then could he?
We can all point to people we know or know of who when saved went through a "Damascus Road" experience in that thier salvation was so dramatic their transformation was almost instantanious as well. My life, as well as most Christians I know is not one of those experiences. I stuggle constantly with wanting to do what is right but constantly screw up as Paul wrote in Roms 7:14-20
14) We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15) I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16) And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17) As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18) I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19) For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20) Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Just how important is this transformation process?
Very important. Scipture is very clear that our "rewards" in heaven will be based upon our deeds on earth. Please do not get this confused with our deeds on earth will equate to our salvation, yes some try to go down that road but they are wrong. You can be the most kind caring and generous person on the face of the earth and a member of a half dozen churches, but according to scripture (not what anyone else believes) if you do not have a personal relationship with Christ, (Admit/Believe/Confess) that you will split the gates of hell wide open upon your death.
What are our rewards in heaven going to be?
I don't have a clue. I can tell you this that since I personally believe that when scripture tells me that Jesus is creating a place in heaven for me I believe it. And when scripture teaches that the final heaven and "new Jeruselam will be on the "new" earth I belive that too!
To be continued