This was originally written 9/2/2008
I don’t care about heaven and hell. I stopped thinking about them a long time ago. It rarely crosses my mind, and if it does, others who are still bound by the fear associated with it normally bring it to mind.
Let me pose a question, because you probably don’t know how to take that statement—should we be focused on where we spend eternity? Some would say yes, some would say no. Think about it. We must understand that our eternal destination is dependent on the grace and mercy of the Judge on Judgment Day, not upon us.
Our righteousness is as filthy rags according to Isaiah 64:6. Everyone alive has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, according Romans 3:23, and the consequence of sin is death, according to Romans 6:23. We cannot do anything worthy of grace, salvation, heaven, or the Kingdom or God.
The problem here is the popular association between salvation, heaven, the Kingdom of God, and living for God. We have the faulty understanding that one day we were “smart” enough to “get saved” and accept Christ as savior, and this new found “salvation” granted us God’s grace, and gives us a free pass to heaven and the Kingdom of God, and we think that if we “try” to live for God after this alleged “salvation”, then God owes us His grace and His Heaven on Judgment Day.
There are several flaws with this concept. First of all, God owes nothing to anyone. He is God. He is just and fair regardless of any circumstance. Despite the suggestion in Dogma that there is a loop hole in theology where you can force God’s hand because of some written text or doctrine, the fact of the matter is that God is not required to give anything to anyone. He is self-sufficient and in supreme authority. Do not think that God is mandated to grant you, or anyone, anything simply because you said a prayer or performed some religious ceremony.
Secondly, salvation is payable on death. This trips a lot of people up because they are unaware of what salvation actually is. The moment you dedicate your life to Christ is more of a spiritual awakening than salvation, for what actually took place is you become aware of your sinful nature and felt shameful and repentant for it. However, people put the label “salvation” on this experience, which isn’t exactly accurate. Salvation is granted on Judgment Day, not any day before it. No one on this earth has been granted salvation, for salvation is not yet redeemable. Salvation can only be redeemed when a sentence is issued, and that comes on Judgement Day.
Third, grace is unmerited favor. This means it has nothing to do with our own merit, or good deeds. Both, a life dedicated to sin, and a life dedicated to God are eligible for grace, because it is not based upon our righteousness. No merit on our behalf will equate to salvation, for our righteousness could never be good enough to enter heaven. The only acceptable way to obtain salvation is the Blood of Christ. It is only the righteousness of Jesus that gains access to salvation. You could not die on the cross for your own sins, which would be the ultimate “act” of righteousness, for you were not without sin. Only through the Blood of Jesus is it even possible to obtain anything other than hell and condemnation. That means the issue is not the “action” or “merit” that grants one salvation, but whether or not Jesus chooses to apply His blood on you in your defense. That, then, is an act of grace. He chooses, not you.
The reason this is so difficult to understand is we truly do not comprehend the concept of grace. It’s nearly impossible to fathom a gift for free, let alone a gift as costly and sacrificial as one’s own life—one’s blood. We, in our feeble human mind, think that we can earn God’s grace or favor by devoting our lives to Him. We think that if we live for Him, He will reward us with His glorious salvation. Man has build doctrines around this thinking. Look at the Pharisees; they sought justification through the keeping of the Torah, and they became condemning of those whose righteousness was not like theirs. Look at Catholics; they say salvation is granted as long as you confess you sin to a man before you die, and even if you don’t they can pray you out of purgatory once you’ve died.
We must understand that salvation is not for sale—you cannot purchase it. You wouldn’t have enough even if it were. You may grasp His attention with your devotion, your zeal, and/or your righteous living (which you could only do through His help anyways), but that is no guarantee that its result will be that administration of grace upon your soul. The only person who could buy it already did.
Salvation is paid for already, so it shouldn’t be something that consumes our minds. Whether or not grace will intervene on our behalf in regard to salvation has nothing to do with us. Therefore, why waste our time dwelling on it?
Fourthly, there is a difference between heaven and the Kingdom of God. People assume they are the same, so they missed Jesus’ point. Jesus talked a lot about the Kingdom of God, but they assumed He was talking about heaven. Most of His parables started off; “the Kingdom of God is like…” Why was that? He was explaining the spiritual through physical examples. He wasn’t explaining heaven, for knowing about heaven while on earth does us absolutely no good. The Kingdom of God is us walking in the authority and power here on earth as God planned for us from the beginning. We were not made for heaven—we were designed and created from and for the earth. In fact, we were designed to operate as an authority—to rule this earth.
The blessings Jesus talks about in regard to walking in the Kingdom of God is not in reference to how “blessed” we will be “when we all get to heaven”—for what good is blessing in heaven? We don’t need to be blessed in heaven—God is there. We need to be blessed in this world where sin and the demonic are prevalent. We need power and authority here, not in heaven. We need help now, here.
Most of the times when Jesus is talking about people not entering the Kingdom of God, He is not talking about heaven. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 is not talking about losing your salvation or being cast out of heaven or being condemned to hell—it is talking about refusing to walk in the Kingdom authority He created us for. He is talking about our actions negating the power we are meant to walk in. Jesus lived on this earth to show us how to live. He was our example. We don’t know what heaven looks like, but in looking at how He lived, we see what the Kingdom of God looks like. He could cast out demons, heal the sick, raise the dead and perform miracles, not merely because He was the Son of God, but because He was operating in the Kingdom of God while here on earth. We have access to the same things He did according to Romans 8:17. We are no different. The reason we don’t do the things He did is because we negate ourselves from walking in that authority because of the things He listed in 1 Corinthians 6.
Fifth, heaven is not what is promised to us—eternal life is. This is another association that is not exactly accurate. We were made for earth, not heaven. We have been fed the concept that eternity holds only two destinations—heaven or hell. Actually, there is condemnation/death or eternal life. We are the ones who put the association of that with heaven and hell.
Hell comes from the word shoal, or Hades, which means grave, and is more of a place of holding for the dead who are awaiting judgment. It is the place Catholics gets their belief in purgatory. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16, when it talks about the dead in Christ will rise first, this is from where they will rise. Hell is not, therefore, the eternal destination of the condemned, for Revelation 20:14 tells us that Hades is cast into the Lake of Fire.
Just about every time Jesus talked about the future in the positive sense, it was not talking about heaven, but eternal life. John 3:16, the most quoted scripture verse of all time says nothing of heaven. We were never promised heaven. We are given the hope of eternal life. But where will we live for all eternity? Revelation 21:2 tells us that the New Jerusalem awaits us. Our final destination is not heaven, but a new earth.
Now, does this mean that we should not be driven by eternity? That is not what I am saying. I believe we should be driven by eternity but focused on the temporary. We are eternity driven in that we all do have an eternity to answer to, and we should be mindful more of others eternal destination than our own. We have a responsibility of the Great Commission. That should be what drives us. We should be focused on the present in that we need to not be so consumed about eternity that we miss the here and now. We have a job to do. We will miss opportunities when we lack complete focus.
That is why I don’t think about heaven and hell, because it doesn’t matter. Whether or not God grants me salvation on Judgment Day is for Him to decide, not me. I have no influence in that decision, for God says that He will have mercy on whomever He wishes to have mercy on (Romans 9:15). I have a hope He will not forsake me. I serve Him, not for anything I might hope to obtain, but because He is worthy of the sacrifice of my entire life. Despite me devoting my entire life to Him, if He still saw fit to deny me salvation, He would still be God—He would still be Just, He would still be righteous, He would still be true, and He would still be worthy of my praise. My life is in His hands, not just right here and right now, but for all eternity. Who am I to question Him? If He deems it fit to cast me into everlasting torment, so be it. If He deems it fit to grant me eternal life, so be it. I am his, eternally.