It seems there are a lot of people who wonder, “Am I good enough to go to heaven?” They wonder if they’ve done enough good, if they’ve helped enough people, if they attended worship services enough times, if they have taught enough people about Jesus. And then, on the other hand, they wonder if they’ve been too bad to go to heaven. I want to attempt to answer some of these questions.Continue Reading...
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Imagine living your entire life in a small mud hut with a grass roof and a dirt floor. Then one day, a man comes to you and says he wants to give you the best house in the world. You think about it for a minute and say, “You mean, a hut with a real floor, like my friend Joe has?” The man laughs and says, “No. I said the best house in the world. Much better than what Joe has.” Allowing yourself to dream of something even better, you say, “Surely you don’t mean a house with walls of wood? I’ve heard of houses like that, but I could never imagine living in a house like that.” The man laughs hysterically and says, “You’re still limiting your thinking. I’m going to give you a house that is better than anything you could even imagine!”
God wants to give us more than we can even ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Unfortunately, we keep trying to trade the future spiritual blessings of God for the immediate physical comforts of this world.
Esau Needed to Desire More
In the book of Genesis we read how Esau gave away his future blessings for a measly bowl of soup. He reasoned, what good are the promises of the future when I’m hungry right now? Using our earlier analogy, Esau gave up whatever mansion he could have had because all he desired was a slightly better hut.
Israel Needed to Desire More
When the Israelites came out of Egypt, all they could think about was the fact that they were hungry. God kept telling them, “I’m giving your own nation.” But, they were so focused on their desire to eat, they almost went back to Egypt and the bonds of slavery. Eventually, they did go back to slavery (Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Roman), because they desired immediate gratification more than they desired the promises of the future. They traded whatever mansion they could have had because they only desired a slightly better hut.
Christians Need to Desire More
Jesus came to change our focus. He came to set our desires on something better. He said, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” (John 6:27). And He said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
But still we struggle. We get so caught up in this physical world. Jesus asks us, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36)? Why are we even tempted to trade the mansion He has promised for a slightly better hut? Because we need to desire more.
Christians Need to Desire More than Stuff
We are so consumed with stuff! Many Christians are trading their eternal home in heaven for the mortgage on their hut! Their trading their mansion in glory for their cars, their cell phones, their computers, their designer clothes, and on and on and on! Jesus says this, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Matthew 6:25)? When you hunger for stuff, you’re not hungry for things that are better – things that are spiritual!
Desire better things than physical things. Seek better things. Jesus said that the worldly minded seek after physical things, “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:32-33).
Christians Need to Desire More than Physical Health
Surely we all want to feel well. When we hurt, it’s hard to think of anything but the pain. But there is so much more to life than just being healthy and well. This body is temporary and we need to desire more than just physical health.
I want to live as long as possible on this earth to be of useful service to my King. But I’m under no illusions about my body. I understand that someday it is going to become ill or injured and it will cease working. But, that doesn’t bother me in the least! When this body is gone, I get to go on to my reward! Paul had this confidence when he wrote, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
If I get sick, pray for me. But please don’t worry about me. Getting sick is inevitable. Dying is inevitable. I will not spend too much time thinking about my body – my dirt floor hut – because I have a mansion waiting for me in heaven!
Christians Need to Desire More than Entertainment
We have become such an entertainment-driven people. And I’m not talking about “worship,” which also reflects this fact. I’m talking about the unbelievable amount of time we spend in front of the television, at concerts, at sporting events, etc.
Do we not realize time is short? Do we not realize there are much more important things than games on facebook, angry birds, who got kicked off the island, and who has the best singing voice in the world?!
Now, I enjoy a little down time watching Duck Dynasty as much as the next guy, but let’s stop getting carried away! Some of us are trading the eternal rest of heaven for a little bit of rest on earth. We are to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Did you catch that? God wants us to be “immovable,” and not immovable from our spot in the easy chair, immovable from our “work” and our “labor.”
Our desire needs to be of such intensity that we don’t sit still for long. We need to desire spiritual things so intensely that we loathe laziness in ourselves. I beg you, don’t trade the blessings of God for the mind-numbing antics of reality television!
There is much more that could be said, but I have already said too much. Let me close with this thought, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
I love you and God loves you,
I received a touching e-mail from a father who lost his daughter, when she was only six years old. This father had several wonderful questions; questions about which we have all probably wondered at some point. It is with his e-mail in mind that I want to explore the question of, where do we go when we die?
Most people reading this blog, like most people in the world, believe in heaven. And most would probably also agree about the existence of hell. However, the question I want to discuss today is, do people go straight to heaven or hell when they die or do they go somewhere else first? Based on my understanding of God’s word, it seems pretty conclusive that departed souls go to a “realm of the dead” to await the Judgement Day.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for the realm of the dead was, “Sheol.” In the New Testament, the Greek word was, “Hades.” Unfortunately, “Hades” is often translated “hell,” which has led to a huge misunderstanding about where a person goes when he dies. Consider the following points regarding the place of Sheol/Hades:
The Rich Man and Lazarus
According to Luke 16, Jesus gives us a picture of this realm; saying that it is divided into two parts – paradise and torment. Many argue that this is only a parable and cannot be taken literally. To me, it doesn’t matter if it is a parable or not. Even in His parables, Jesus never described a place or situation in an unrealistic way. For instance, in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, he talked about a man on the road “from Jerusalem to Jericho.” This was a real road; a road with which His audience was very familiar.
So, whether “The Rich Man and Lazarus” is a parable or not, I believe this passage teaches there is a realm, divided between paradise and torment, in which the souls of the dead reside.
Jesus in Hades
When Jesus died on the cross, His soul (like the souls of all those who die) went to Hades. About Jesus it is written, “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption” (Acts 2:27, quoted from Psalm 16:10). Obviously, Jesus did not remain in Hades, because He rose from the dead.
And just so you don’t make the assumption that Jesus was in “hell,” remember He said to one of the criminals with whom He was crucified, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Acts 23:43). So, when Jesus died, His soul left His body and went to the part of Hades known as “Paradise.”
The Bible, especially the New Testament, promises a Resurrection of the dead. Even the Jews of Jesus’ day heavily debated whether or not there would be a Resurrection; this was one of the major contentions between Pharisees and Sadducees (Acts 23:6-8). Paul explains everything we need to know about the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15.
Paul says there will be a time when the dead will be resurrected with a new body. The body that dies is physical; the body which will be raised is a spiritual body. I won’t go into detail about what Paul says here, so go and read 1 Corinthians 15 for yourself.
Jesus said this concerning the Resurrection, “An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28). So, both the children of God and those in the world will be resurrected on that Day.
The Judgement Day
Jesus said that the day of resurrection will also be a day of judgement. The Bible only speaks of one Judgement Day. Many teach that we are each judged the moment we die and are immediately ushered into heaven or hell. With all do respect to those who hold this view, I am not sure how they arrived at this conclusion.
It seems pretty clear that there will be a “Day” on which the dead will be raised, everyone will be judged, and the physical world will be destroyed. Consider these passages:
2 Peter 3:10-12
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
It seems strange that a person would die, go to heaven/hell, be resurrected, stand in judgement, and then go back to heaven/hell. It seems more in keeping with the totality of Scripture that man dies, goes to Hades, is resurrected with a spiritual body, stands in judgement, and then proceeds to his eternal reward or punishment.
There is much more that could be said concerning this issue, but we will save that for a later post. I do not think this is an issue over which anyone should be contentious. But, it is comforting to know that our Christian loved ones (and those who died in childhood) are safe in Paradise, in “the bosom of Abraham.” And it is exciting to know that all of God’s children will enter into heaven together on that glorious Day!
I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.
I love you and God loves you,