(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
20th July 2008
When I talk to people, it seems that almost all of us Ė Christians and non-Christians Ė have an opinion about what happens after we die. Some think we just stop existing. Some think we come back to life on Earth as a cow or a camel or a hippopotamus or an aardvark. Some think we all go to heaven. Some people think that some go to heaven and some donít.
You probably have a belief about these things. But Iíd like to ask the question: where do you get that belief from? Why do you think itís true? After all, we havenít died, so now experimental data is available to us. Do you believe what you believe because someone told you? Why should they be right? Or do you believe it because itís what you want to believe? That makes as much sense as believing that Iím a millionaire or a Premiership footballer. The fact that Iíd like it to be true doesnít make it true.
As a Christian, I have my own opinion. But I do at least have a reason why I believe what I believe. I believe that there is a heaven, and I believe that not all of us get to go there. And the reason I believe these things is that the Bible tells me that theyíre true. Iíve learnt to trust the Bible. Over the 35 years or so that Iíve taken the Bible seriously, Iíve found that its teachings are far better than my own opinions in all sorts of ways. The Bible has helped me through life, and has proved dependable, even when I havenít.
The Bible says that Heaven is where God lives. I expect weíd all agree with that. The Lordís Prayer starts:
And Heaven is now where Jesus lives. Right at the end of Jesusís time on Earth, after His resurrection, he taught and prayed for His disciples for the last time:
Whatís Heaven like? We get some idea from Bible passages like Revelation 4v1-11. But even with these passages, it can be hard for us on Earth to imagine exactly what life in heaven will be like, but the Bible says that the church is the ďheavenly JerusalemĒ. To those in the church, God says:
The church doesnít always feel like thatĖ if ever. Itís made up of very imperfect people. But when itís working well, it does give us the best picture we can see on Earth of what Heaven is like. Itís full of praise to God, full of joy, full of peace, welcoming, kind and genrous. The church has a huge responsibility to represent God and Heavenly life, on Earth. And we should apologise to God and to those outside the church for how much we fail to do this.
But in Heaven, Godís people will be free from sin, and we will be be full of praise, goodness, joy and peace. The church on Earth isnít perfect by a long way. Weíre a work in progress. God is working on us, and He hasnít finished yet. But He will!
Most of us would agree, and the Bible certainly teaches, that some people will go to Heaven and some wonít. Who deserves to go to Heaven? If Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao and Pol Pot went to heaven, weíd think correctly that it was unjust. They were sinful men. But whoís to say whoís pure enough to go to heaven and who isnít? Are you pure enough to go to Heaven?
Iím convinced that Heaven is real. But Iím also convinced that I donít deserve to go to Heaven.
But Iím also convinced that I am going to Heaven.
Peter, while writing to Christians, said:
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has paid the price for my sin, and has won the victory over death. Thatís why they call it ďgreat mercyĒ. Through faith in Jesus, we can be forgiven, and we can enter Heaven, even though we donít deserve it.