The Who of Heaven

BIG IDEA:  Every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears that you put into a relationship here on this Earth is ALWAYS WORTH IT, PERIOD. There will be no regret in investing in people. Though not all people will be with us in Heaven, it does not make the time spent loving them, living life with them, or sacrificing for them a mistake. Just like Jesus’ death for all humanity on the cross was not a mistake, even though many will reject him eternally, the sacrifice brings glory to God’s love.

SERIES: Heaven: We all have big questions about the topic of Heaven. Some say it’s escapist to spend time thinking about Heaven. That’s not true. It’s arrogant not to spend time thinking about our inevitable end and what might come afterwards. Instead of living in denial of death, the fear of death, we ought to embrace Jesus’ victory over death and dwell on what’s to come. Our lives are brief. And therefore the wise will consider the end and the after. Let us, like the wise, consider Heaven: the who, what, when, where, why, and how of Heaven.

SCRIPTURE: Romans 10:1-13

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, 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. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

  • Who is Heaven, and who can we expect to see there? We don’t approach this question lightly. And in talking about it, we must also talk about Hell.
  • Scriptural Context: In Romans 10, Paul is trying to explain how many Israelites were missing out on salvation because they were missing the centrality of Jesus by looking to the old promises, which were fulfilled through the life and death of Jesus.
  • Good people: There were plenty of good people, Jewish people, who were living out the Law well, but they were missing salvation. Just like today, there are many wonderful people, good people, who don’t consider themselves Christians, but who are perhaps better people than some of the Christians we know. And yet they are still missing salvation through Jesus. Being a good person isn’t enough if you don’t have Jesus.
  • Read the instructions: If you take a test without reading the instructions, there’s a good chance you’ll miss something. Pastor Dave took a test once that, in order to pass, all you had to do was write your name on the back of the paper. But that information was in the instructions, and he failed to read them all the way through before taking the test. Think of salvation as God telling you to write the name of the person who’s grade you want on the back of your paper, and that’s the grade you will get. We write down the name of Jesus, and we get his grade; we get salvation through the Gospel of Jesus.
  • Who will receive salvation? Those who believe with their hearts and confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord. It doesn’t work to just get your best grade or the best grade of someone else.
  • How will people know? Romans 10:14 gives us the answer. Someone has to tell them. We – not just pastors and evangelists – must preach the good news. We are all called to tell others about the way to Heaven. If you know the truth, you must share the truth.
  • Jesus is the first “Who” of Heaven: We’re made for a person and for a place. We were made for Jesus and for Heaven. It’s not our own righteousness that gets us to Heaven, it’s Jesus’ righteousness, and Heaven is where we will finally get to be in the full, glorious presence of Jesus and his righteousness.
  • If Heaven is the place of Jesus, is there a place without Jesus? Everyone and anyone who says “no” to Jesus, Hell is their destination. If you don’t like Jesus, then you won’t like Heaven. Jesus never forces himself on anyone, and that’s why Hell exists. People will say “no” to Jesus. 2 Thess. 1:9 speaks of those who say “no” to Jesus.
  • But isn’t the idea of Hell just an old tradition, an imagined threat to keep us in our place? The answer is no. Here’s what C.S. Lewis has to say on the matter:
    • “I have met no person who fully disbelieved in Hell and also had a living and life-giving belief in Heaven”… which is to say… the biblical teaching on both destinations stands or falls together. You cannot have Heaven as we know and hope for it, without Hell. You cannot have a place without the presence of Sin, without removing the sin. And you cannot remove the sin without the work of Jesus applied. And so, for those who refuse Jesus, refuse to apply his work to their life, do not want his presence, then they have this destiny.”
  • What can we know of Hell? Not a lot. Just as the Bible speaks of Heaven in primarily figurative language, so the Bible speaks of Hell in figurative language. We don’t know if there will be fire and brimstone. But we do know that the place we call “Hell” will be at least as bad as the worst things we experience on Earth. Just as there isn’t human language specific and great enough to describe Heaven, so there isn’t human language specific or wretched enough to describe Hell. We don’t know what kind of torment those who go there will experience, but we know that it’s not a place we would wish on anyone. It’s a place void of Jesus and the presence of God.
  • “Hallel!” – We cry “hallelujah” and say, “praise be to God!” But those who say no to Jesus cry “hallel,” and say “praise to myself.”
  • True Freedom: In The Great Divorce, S. Lewis presents this idea, that “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘“THY” will be done.” Because in the end, it is our choice. We have the freedom to choose Christ or to choose ourselves.
  • Earth is Midway: Earth is the mid-point, the gateway to either Heaven or Hell. For those who choose Jesus, this Earth is the closest they will ever get to Hell. For those who do not choose Jesus, this Earth is the closest they will ever get to Heaven. This is a hard truth, but it is truth.
  • Who should we expect to see in Heaven? For every American who believes they are going to Hell, there are 120 who believe they are going to Heaven. But those numbers cannot add up according to Scripture. The Bible says that the path is hard to find. It’s narrow and as difficult as walking through the eye of a needle. We must all do more than just turn away from Hell, we have to turn towards Jesus. That’s the qualification.
    • The Books: Rev 20:12-15
      • “Books”: These books contain the information that we will be judged by, information about our lives – everything we’ve ever done. It is by these “books” that we will be judged. This should terrify us regardless of whether or you’re a Christian or not. We all experience terror at the thought of everything you’ve ever done being laid out for all to see. If you don’t believe that this will actually happen, ask yourself, “why then do I feel terror just at the thought of it?”
      • The Book of Life: If we have believed with our heart and confessed with our mouth, then our name will be in the Book of Life, and all of the deeds in the first books will have been nailed to the cross of Christ. And he will welcome us home. But those whose name is not in the Book of Life, Jesus will say to them, “depart from me. I never knew you.”
      • Isn’t the harsh?
        • We feel that this is harsh because God himself hates the fact that some will not be with him in eternity. He hates it so much that he sent his son to die so that at least some could come and live in his presence forever. It’s okay to hate the fact that some will spend eternity in Hell. We should hope and pray that as many people as possible find Jesus.
        • We feel that this is harsh because we want to escape the truth that we so often choose ourselves over God, over our neighbors. We hate that it’s on us, in part, to be the deliverers of this Good News. And because we want to get out of it, and we don’t want to admit to our own selfishness, we decide to change what we believe about Heaven and Hell. Jesus makes it clear, so that we could make it clear. God isn’t unfair.
        • Only God can truly know who will be saved and who will not. His judgments are unsearchable to our minds. We are not the judges, and so we aren’t able to decide who is worthy of being with Jesus forever. God will not mess this up. He will save. And we must trust that he will save.
      • 7:9: Every tribe, tongue, and people will be represented in Heaven.
      • Those we know: We will see people we knew were Believers. We will see people we didn’t know were Believers. We will recognize our loved ones, family, and friends.
      • Okay, so why aren’t we inconsolably sad by the fact that some of our loved ones aren’t with us? God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

OUR RESPONSE:

  • We must not fail to preach the Gospel: Yes, God can save by any means he chooses, but that doesn’t mean we stop spreading the Gospel. That’s. Our. Job. We must not assume that God will use any and every means. Do your part.
  • Invest in people: You will never regret investing in the people around you because Jesus died for them, regardless of whether or not they would say “yes” to his offer of grace. God will redeem your time, and your investment will not be lost. Jesus didn’t just die for everyone who would say yes to him. He died for all. If he could sacrifice his life, then surely we can sacrifice time and energy for those whom Jesus has died.

Want to study this topic more?

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