Who is in Heaven

(Dean Schmucker) #1

I recalled a humorous poem, written anonymously, and found it on the net:

I was shocked, confused, bewildered
as I entered Heaven’s door,
Not by the beauty of it all,
by the lights or its decor.

But it was the folks in Heaven
who made me sputter and gasp-
the thieves, the liars, the sinners,
the alcoholics, the trash.

There stood the kid from seventh grade
who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor
who never said anything nice.

Herb, who I always thought
was rotting away in hell,
was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
looking incredibly well.

I nudged Jesus, 'What’s the deal?
I would love to hear Your take.
How’d all these sinners get up here?
God must’ve made a mistake.

And why is everyone so quiet, so somber, give me a clue’. ‘Hush child,’ He said. ‘They are all in shock, because no one thought they would be seeing you’.”

Why is it that most, according to Jesus, are on the broad road that leads to destruction? Do they face an angry God, ready to gladly throw them into Hell? Or a sad God, who sends them there because He has no choice, for there is no place for them in Heaven?
Someone once said, “there will be a lot of surprised faces in Hell”, and, I think, also in Heaven, as is suggested in this poem.

I think the reason that so few are saved is that the Gospel message is utter foolishness to the “secular” crowd, and a complete offense to religious people (I Corinthians). To the first group, any message about God is ridiculed because they don’t believe He even exists, so we might as well be talking about Santa Claus in their minds. Religious folks don’t doubt God exists, and work hard, but their hearts are far away from God. In other words, if we have not been offended by the gospel, we have not HEARD the gospel.

(SeanO) #2

@manbooks There are a few thoughts that pop into my mind when a question about who gets into Heaven is raised:

  • eternal life is about knowing God - Jesus literally says that eternal life is to ‘know Him’ - and that means having a transformed life - a new heart. Heaven is not a place where you can go on being the same you chilling on a beach for eternity - it is a place where you become like Christ, finally free from sin’s presence, and your old self - the sin and filth - is utterly washed away. You cannot go to Heaven as you are - you must surrender your sins to Christ. And many are unwilling to do so.
  • life is in God, so to reject God is to reject life - you cannot reject God as He is and still find eternal life - that is a contradiction in terms
  • God invites everyone to come and find life, but He also allows people to choose and honors their choice
  • ‘Hell’ as popularly conceived is not to be found in the Bible - even those who believe that unbelievers will be eternally separated from God do not envision a place where demons torment people. No one reigns in ‘hell’ - it is a place of final defeat for the powers of darkness - it is destruction of the enemy - not a place where the enemy reigns.

Part of the problem, I think, is a complete misunderstanding of salvation and an assumption that all Christians are hypocrites, or at least no better than the average man on the street. If those ‘holy rollers’ or ‘holier than thou’ people who are no different than us get in, why shouldn’t we? It is hard for an unbeliever to truly conceive of the Christ life - of truly having a new heart and the Spirit of God within you - of not yet being perfect but daily being conformed more to the image of Christ. I am not sure that the reality of the Christ life is something comprehensible until you’ve really experienced it. And hence it is hard for them to imagine how Heaven is anything other than people just like themselves living in very posh houses on the beach forever and ever and looking down on those who are elsewhere. The power of God’s Spirit received by grace in the heart to make us a new creation fit for a world where Christ’s glory is our light and filled with love even for our enemies - I think that unbelief in God naturally leads to unbelief in such transformation as well.

Matthew 23:37 - Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

John 17:3 - Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

Revelation 22:17 - The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

C. S. Lewis - The Great Divorce

In this book Lewis makes the point that the gates of ‘Hell’ are locked from the inside. People are not in Heaven because they do not love the things of Heaven - their heart is set on keeping their self-worth or their petty sins / vices or their pride or some long held idol - they are unwilling to let go of their sins so that they might be made whole.

What if anyone in Hell could take a bus trip to Heaven and stay there forever if they wanted to?

In The Great Divorce C. S. Lewis again employs his formidable talent for fable and allegory. The writer finds himself in Hell boarding a bus bound for Heaven. The amazing opportunity is that anyone who wants to stay in Heaven, can. This is the starting point for an extraordinary meditation upon good and evil, grace and judgment. Lewis’s revolutionary idea is the discovery that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside. In Lewis’s own words, “If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.

Rich Man and Lazarus

If we read the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 we see a few very significant things about the rich man even after he is condemned and Lazarus is at Abraham’s side:

  • the rich man insinuates he did not have enough information
  • the rich man is not repentant
  • the rich man still thinks he is better than Lazarus - he speaks to Abraham rather than directly addressing Lazarus, trying to boss Lazarus around like a servant

In other words, the rich man’s heart had not changed in the afterlife - he still refused to truly surrender his pride and sin.

We also see that Abraham addresses the rich man as ‘son’ - showing a sense of compassion / loss even for an unrepentant sinner (Tim Keller points this out in video below).

Connect Threads on Hell

The three views of how God handles sin ultimately are:

  1. Eternal torment - some form of eternal suffering or separation from God
  2. Conditionalism - those who reject God are judged and then cease to exist
  3. Universalism - sin is real, but all people will eventually be brought to repentance

Tim Keller, who believes hell is eternal, explaining his view of judgment and why it is not unfair. I tend more towards annihilation personally.

(Dean Schmucker) #3

Many great points. I myself cannot imagine annihilation, for it seems to me that the soul is eternal. I loved The Great Divorce, I recall a scene where Napoleon is pacing around, moving farther and farther away from Heaven, very much his choice. Also, Jesus mentioned souls cast into darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. And then the story of the rich man in Hell, which you cited. But I cannot imagine either an eternal Hell, without the possibility of repentance, except to note that it seems the dammed would rather rot there than accept the requirements to get to Heaven. What do you think?

(SeanO) #4

@manbooks Personally I do not think the idea of the soul being inherently immortal is a Biblical concept, but rather a concept borrowed from Greco-Roman philosophy by the early Church fathers, such as Augustine.

(Dean Schmucker) #5

Anyway, the thought that resonates with me now is that men are in Hell by their choice. God paid the price for them to be saved, but they chose not to accept it. As bad as hell is, they prefer it to the price they would have to pay to get into Heaven. Though perhaps the option of repentance might be offered, even in hell, they simply will not do so.

(SeanO) #6

@manbooks I think Lewis does such a spectacular job of explaining how Heaven is not the type of place that someone who rejects God would want to be because it would require them to surrender their sin, which is the very thing they are unwilling to do. We should be careful of using the English word ‘Hell’ in my opinion, because in the Bible there are 4 Greek/Hebrew words - ‘Sheol’, ‘Hades’, ‘Tartarus’ and ‘Gehenna’ that are sometimes translated ‘Hell’ in English Bibles. None of those words from the original language actually refer to what the English word ‘Hell’ suggests to most peoples’ minds. The one that comes closest is Hades, but that word is only used once (if I remember correctly) in the story of the rich man and Lazarus and is still not a direct parallel. Dante’s Inferno had not been written at that time in history…

(Dean Schmucker) #7

Joy Dawson wrote about the insanity of sin. Indeed. Why woukd anyone choose to keep their sin, in light of what Christ has done to save them? But tbey do.

(SeanO) #8

@manbooks Yes, people are blinded to the truth by their sin and by the devil. Which is why we must always show others Christ through our lives, in the hope that they might be set free from slavery to sin and satan.

2 Timothy 2:24-26 - And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.